Arsenal finally kicked off their season with their first three points of the season picked up at Vicarage Road, with Alexis Sanchez proving pivotal as he won a penalty, scored and then set up a third goal before half-time in a devastating display after a frustrating start to the campaign.
The Chilean continued in a central role up-front, as he played against Liverpool and Leicester City, but was much more threatening up against the Hornets. With his pace and skill back on show as the Gunners sought to make the most of those qualities, rather than give him the same service they would provide to the still not fully fit Olivier Giroud.
One potential reason for that is clear. In comparison to the Liverpool game, where Alexis received just 22 passes, eight of which were long aerial balls, with the forward winning just one of his aerial duels that day. At Watford, he received 54 passes, and only two were aerial duels. In a style of play which was much more to his liking, he played the game as it suits him.
With an 89% pass completion ratio and three shots on target, the frustration of the past two games vanished as Alexis was far more influential with the ball at his feet. Drifting into wide positions in a more fluid attacking set-up, Alexis enjoyed the freedom that he had to create opportunities, creating the space and the cross for Mesut Ozil to head home in injury time of the first half.
Watford’s back three of Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Prodl and Christian Kabasele struggled to deal with the diminutive striker, and could not handle his pace as he ran at them with some sensational off the ball movement added into the mix to tear Walter Mazzarri’s defensive set-up apart time after time.
However, Sanchez’s performance wasn’t limited there. With a successful interception and a successful tackle, he showed his work rate and willingness to track back when covering for his team mates who had drifted more centrally, namely Theo Walcott on the right and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left.
Now, the pressure will be on Alexis Sanchez to maintain this form. With a tricky visit from Southampton next up in the Premier League, the fixture list is far from kind to Arsene Wenger and co. as they then face PSG, an in form Hull side and Chelsea. Giroud is expected to return to lead the line, and potential addition Lucas Perez will also provide cover, but Alexis will have to be at his best to get positive results from those fixtures.
Should the 27-year-old again return to a wider position as expected when they return, he will have to compete with the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though he will surely remain one of the first names on the team sheet, and based on his performance at Vicarage Road, with good reason too.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Pratal.