Alexis Sanchez Shows He Is Arsenal’s Best Hope of Landing the Title
For Arsene Wenger, the brilliant form of Alexis Sanchez is not entirely good news. Although hell undoubtedly be grateful that the Chilean produced a brilliant hat-trick to help the Gunners to three points against West Ham, hell also know that every goal will add to Alexis wage demands. With contract talks approaching a crucial point, Arsenal must break the bank to keep their star manplaying like this, he looks capable of leading them to glory this season.
This resounding victory helped eradicate memories of Arsenals 2-0 midweek defeat against Southampton in the EFL Cup. The likes of Alexis were rested for that match, and the benefit was obviousArsenals players looked fresh and hungry throughout the 90 minutes. It seems crazy to suggest a 5-1 defeat may have flattered the home side, but its true: Had Arsenal been more ruthless in front of goal, the scoreline could have been even more humiliating for Slaven Bilic.
Alexis was West Hams tormentor in chief. From the first minute of the game, his energy and imagination was difficult to contain. Watching on, the Arsenal fans may have considered it almost fortuitous that injury has once again robbed Wenger of Olivier Giroud. The Gunners boss still occasionally feels tempted to deploy his countryman as the spearhead of the Arsenal attack. However, when Alexis plays through the middle, Wengers team look significantly superior.
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images West Ham found it impossible to contain Alexis Sanchez.
His successful adaptation to the centre has been the major positive of Arsenals season. Speaking to arsenal.com after the game, Wenger hailed the emergence of another South American striking sensation:
Look, he has all the ingredients to be a top class striker and he shows that now in every game. In a game like that today, again he is quick, he is quick to close down, he can dribble, he has short backlift. He has a killer instinct and it shows again that the South Americans, at the moment in world football, are the leading strikers. You have to acknowledge that. If you look through the top strikers in Europe, they are basically all South American now.
Alexis hat-trick took him above Argentine Sergio Aguero and level with Brazilian-born Diego Costa at the top of the goalscoring chart. The former Barcelona man now has 11 in this seasons Premier League, with a further two in the Champions League.
All three of Alexis goals against West Ham would rank among his very best of the current campaign. For the first, he took a fizzed pass from Shkodran Mustafi under control with a brilliant touch and turn, dribbled into the penalty area and fired a shot across Darren Randolph and into the far corner.
His second goal required just a single touch. Alexis allowed a deflected pass to run across his body, then sent a volley into the far corner from the edge of the box. The manner in which he adjusted his body then fired the shot off with minimal back-lift was typical of Alexis explosive style.
His final goal was characterised by sheer impudence. He may have been marginally offside when found by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlains through-ball, but in time all that will be remembered is Alexis outrageous finish. An audacious dummy left Randolph on his backside, and the forward then clipped the ball delightfully into the empty net. It was a goal underpinned by supreme confidence.
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
The entire hat-trick was completed in the space of just 14 minutes. It was Alexis who transformed this game from a victory into a mauling. West Ham will have been delighted to see the back of him.
Of course, he does far more than just score goals. Its easy to forget that he also laid on Arsenals opener, chasing down a Francis Coquelin interception, beating Winston Reid and laying on a tap-in for Mesut Ozil. That was Alexis sixth assist of the seasonnot content with being Arsenals top scorer, hes also their most effective creator. Hes a one-man attacking whirlwind.
Crucially, Alexis is enjoying his new role. Hes the type of footballer whos at the best when hes happy, and Wenger told arsenal.com that he is relishing his reconfigured deployment on the field:
I think, yes, he likes the positions. You know how the players are, people like to play as strikers. If it doesnt work, they prefer their first position. But when it comes off, of course, when they walk home with the ball under their arm, its a good feeling and I think and hope that it gives him the taste for more. He has the qualities to play there, he has good movement, he is sharp. Maybe size-wise you could say he is not the tallest, but he is quite good in the air when he goes for it.
This was a good day for Arsenal. Ozils goal means that he has already matched his Premier League tally for last season, and were not yet at the halfway stage. Behind him, Granit Xhaka gave an impressive audition for the “Santi Cazorla” role, and Oxlade-Chamberlains strike from distance continued his impressive start to the campaign.
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates with Alexis Sanchez.
Even though Andy Carroll did emerge from the substitutes bench to score a predictable goal, Arsenals defence fared well too. Gabriel Paulista adapted surprisingly well to a new role at right-back, meaning former West Ham loanee Carl Jenkinson was not missed. At the heart of the back four, Laurent Koscielny continued his reliable partnership with Mustafione particularly well-timed intervention from the Frenchman prevented a certain goal. However, theres no doubting who the star man was.
West Ham did not offer the stiffest competition, but its difficult to remember too many individual displays that can contend with Alexis performance at the London Stadium. He was a man inspiredand if he continues Click Here to play like this, its conceivable that he could lead Arsenal to a first Premier League title since 2004.
If Alexis wage demands do rise along with the calibre of his performances, Arsenal cant complainthey simply must pay whatever it takes to keep this firecracker forward at the club. Right now, he is too good to lose.
JamesMcNicholasis Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout 2016/17. Follow him on Twitterhere.