Arsenal managed to beat Chelsea convincingly at the weekend, putting them firmly back into the title picture. There hasn’t been a single team emerge as genuine competition for Manchester City, but Arsenal could in the coming weeks. They had a poor start to the season due to the lack of forward planning in the transfer window. Although they managed to bring in Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi, they should have done it much earlier and their struggles in the first two matches were representative of that.
At the beginning of the season, Alexis Sanchez has been playing as the main striker, with Olivier Giroud only playing a minor role. This was due to the Frenchman’s exploits at the Euros, but in his absence, Sanchez has been improving every week. He was superb against Chelsea, playing a huge role in his side’s victory. He has now scored four goals and added two assists over the last four league matches, as he shows once again that he is one of the best players in the division.
His tenacity and work rate helped him open the scoring, as he didn’t give the defenders a minutes rest. Sanchez managed to dispossess Gary Cahill, before running through on goal and slotting past Thibaut Courtois. He forced the goal out of nothing and showed the difference between him and Olivier Giroud. The Chilean is more mobile and willing to run himself into the ground for the team. Against Chelsea’s nervy defence, it was the right choice to play Sanchez up front and he justified the selection with a superb performance.
Despite not being a natural striker, Sanchez isn’t afraid to shoot when the opportunity presents itself. During the match on Saturday, he took four shots, which was more than anybody else on the pitch. Although only one found the target, he was a constant threat to the Chelsea back four. In the past, Arsenal have been accused of trying to walk the ball in and Arsene Wenger will be encouraged that he has a player in Sanchez who is always looking to shoot when possible.
In central areas, Alexis Sanchez can influence the match, as he can create chances as well as score goals. On Saturday, he finished the game with two key passes, highlighting how he can open up defences. One of these led to the third goal, as he played a wonderful ball to get Mesut Özil into free space, and the German made no mistake in finishing the move. It also showed how he can be unselfish in his game, as there was an opportunity for him to shoot, but he opted to give the ball to Özil, who was in a better position.
Sanchez doesn’t shy away from the defensive contribution either, as shown by the one tackle and two interceptions that he made against Chelsea. This is another advantage that he has over Giroud, as the Chilean is able to win the ball high up the pitch, which enables Arsenal to counter quickly. Although the Gunners normally opt for patient build-up play, pressing is important in the modern game and Wenger is beginning to adopt it into his philosophy. The first goal was a result of Sanchez’s pressing and that could be a part of his game that shines through this season.
It will be interesting to see if Sanchez moves to a central role more permanently, but he has done well there in recent weeks. After an initial struggle, he has grown into the role and is influencing matches regularly. He is currently in a hot streak with four goals in his last four league games and will be full of confidence for the matches coming up this week.
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