Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal enhanced their top-four credentials with a timely victory over Hull City. The Chilean striker netted in each half to secure three points for Arsene Wenger’s men, who were the beneficiaries of two controversial decisions at the Emirates. The pressure had been mounting on the Gunners following back-to-back defeats against Watford and Chelsea, which had all but extinguished their lingering hopes of challenging for the title. Hull had travelled to north London with hope of causing a shock and they turned in a commendable performance that bodes well for their survival prospects. Here are three things we learnt from this gripping Premier League encounter.
Crucial referring decisions favour Arsenal
Mark Clattenburg is generally considered to be the best referee in England – and his skills were put to the test here as he found himself embroiled in controversy. The first major flashpoint arrived with Sanchez’s opener in the 34th minute, which appeared to ricochet off his hand and into the net. Hull’s players appealed for handball and Clattenburg consulted with his assistant before awarding the goal. The game was still well poised in the second half when another incident called the man in the middle’s judgement into question. Hull’s Lazar Markovic was bearing down on goal when he was barged into unfairly by Kieran Gibbs. The Arsenal defender was shown a yellow card, even though he had been the last defender. Tigers’ manager Marco Silva was fuming at the decision not to send off Gibbs and can rightly feel aggrieved that, on both counts, his side were hard done by. When you are scrapping to preserve your top-flight status, such decisions can be critical. Clattenburg’s dismissal of Sam Clucas for deliberate handball in injury-time was more straightforward, however.
Tying Sanchez down to a new contract must be Wenger’s top priority
With his brace, Sanchez returned to the top of the Premier League goalscoring chart. His influence has grown exponentially during his two-and-a-half-years at the club. This season, he has been utilised by Wenger as a central striker, having previously played in a wider or more withdrawn position. His failure to agree on a contract extension is a real cause for concern for Arsenal supporters. Sanchez is the Gunners’ key asset and a truly world-class performer, whom Arsenal must tie down to a new deal if they are to remain a heavyweight. It may mean breaking the club’s wage structure, but Sanchez is an exceptional circumstance. His two goals against Hull – the second of which was a stoppage-time penalty – did not necessarily showcase his supreme skill, but he now has 17 league goals this season as well as eight assists. He is also one of the hardest working players in the game today, a quality to which supporters can relate. The longer the contract impasse continues, the greater the risk that Sanchez will be poached this summer. There will be no shortage of suitors.
Hull’s away form needs to yield more points
There is no doubt that the appointment of Silva as manager has had a galvanising effect on Hull City, who had looked doomed under his predecessor, Mike Phelan. Now there is genuine hope that they can beat the drop, having climbed to 18th position – just one point adrift of safety. The Tigers have won every home game under Silva, but their away form remains a mystery. It is now 12 matches since they won on the road – only reigning champions Leicester have a worse record – and this is something Silva will be desperate to rectify as soon as possible. A trip to Arsenal was a free hit for Hull in many respects, and they can take a lot of heart from their overall display, which warranted more than a 2-0 reversal. But it is important that they start to see a tangible reward for their endeavours away from the KCOM Stadium since it will be tough to rely solely on their home form for points. Next up for them in the Premier League is a crucial home clash with Burnley.