Can Alexis Sanchez be the catalyst to end Arsenal's title drought?
The signing of Alexis Sanchez back in 2014 for £31.7 million was seen as a signal of intent to European football, the Chilean’s arrival was a season after the capture of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Finally, it felt like Arsenal were able to financially compete again with the giants in the Premier League. Even with the partnership of the unrelenting Sanchez and the vision of Ozil they have still struggled to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, can this season be different?
Following Arsenal’s demolition of West Ham at the London Stadium in a 5-1 win, one man took the plaudits and it comes as no surprise that, that man was Alexis Sanchez. He was the stand-out performer on the evening being awarded man of the match and taking the match-ball with a 14-minute hat-trick of immense quality. There is no doubt that the former Barcelona attacker has gone from a small fish in a big pond to being the big fish in a relatively small one. He is the main man at the Emirates and continues to impress and reap numerous plaudits.
Alexis’ hat-trick was a thing of unbelievable self-belief and quality. His first, a sublime first touch on the turn and a right-footed drive from an acute angle, leaving West Ham keeper Randolph very little chance. His second was once again clever, Sanchez has very little back-lift when he strikes the ball, on this occasion, he caught the West Ham keeper off-guard, giving him no time to set himself as he was beaten by the power and quick-thinking Sanchez. His hat-trick goal was debatably offside but take nothing away from the quality of the finish. This was all about pace, technique, craft and pure impudence of the audacious step over and finish with his right foot. A delicate dink over the onrushing Randolph, that capped off a sumptuous Sanchez display.
Sanchez has been one of the best performers so far this season, along with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa. The Arsenal forward is now joint top goalscorer in the Premier League with Chelsea’s Costa, both on 11 goals. Sanchez has also racked up four assists and created 35 chances.
The Chilean has embraced his new role at Arsenal since being moved into a central role. He was tried there early on into his Arsenal career which didn’t seem to work out. However, this season he has been the talisman for Arsenal’s good form which has seen them put together a run of 13 league games unbeaten and they will look to extend that on Saturday against Stoke City.
It is no surprise to see comparisons between Sanchez and Luis Suarez yet again. They both have great technique, are tenacious and have an irrepressible work-rate. Sanchez’s desire for the game can be infectious at times. He has proved himself to be able to lead a team that for a while has lacked real leadership, with the little Chilean leading the line Arsenal have the ability to defend from the front and cause defences some real problems.
Last season was seen as a real missed opportunity for the Gunners who failed to capitalise on their title rivals and their repetitive slip-ups. They eventually finished runners-up in a season that could have been so much more. While a 2nd placed finish would normally herald an improvement, there were too many issues encountered by Arsenal that would make it difficult to refer to that campaign as a progressive one. We have now entered December which means Arsenal have put behind them their usually terrible month of November, they didn’t come through it unscathed but they remained unbeaten in the league and have achieved qualification from the Champions League group stage for another season.
They currently sit in a healthy 2nd place thanks to Manchester City and Liverpool’s surprising collapses at the weekend, Three points off Chelsea at this stage is not bad at all considering at this stage Wenger’s men are prone to slipping much further behind.
Sanchez can be the catalyst for Arsenal to form a serious challenge this season, it could be now or never for Wenger who is still yet to put pen-to-paper on a new deal with his current deal ending next Summer. Sanchez’s contract is also ticking down and only has 18 months left to run on the current deal, you would imagine after his display at the weekend the powers that be will be moving heaven and earth to secure his services for at least another three seasons.
There is a long way to go this season, after all, we are only 14 league games into a 38 game season. However, early signs are encouraging. For Arsenal to pull off a title-winning season Sanchez will need to remain fit and keep up his mercurial form which has seen him look odds on to bettering his goals record of 25 goals in his first season at Arsenal (2014-15), an improvement on that and we could be witnessing a perfect farewell for Arsene Wenger and a bumper pay deal for the sensational Chilean.
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