Sunday, 2 November 2014

Arsenal 3-0 Burnley: Sanchez is masterclass

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Gooners, in particular, have been guilty of overrating players. We tend to accentuate the positives and conveniently filter out their negative traits aplenty. Perhaps it's because most of the fanbase - loyal to Arsene Wenger - want to justify the Frenchman's persistence to his puzzling decisions. They'd hail every Mesut Ozil tap-in, touting him to be worth every £42m penny. They'd figure the reason for Giroud's constant inclusion lies in his "remarkable" hold-up play and pinball passing.

Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that our claims lay completely unfounded, but sometimes we do tend to hyperbole a player's strengths. Theo Walcott, in his absence, has turned into Arsenal's most important player. Mesut Ozil, in his absence, has become the reason why we struggle to open up defences nowadays. Our tendency to put players on an unnecessary pedestal in a vainly attempt to find an answer to our current hardships has, in turn, put undue pressure on the player to perform once he returns.

The same, however, simply cannot be said of Alexis Sanchez. He is a player who I find nigh on impossible to criticize. The guy has firmly planted his stocky feet into the ground after a precarious start. Once he rocketed that volley against Manchester City, the guy has been flying. Sure, his passing and ability to strike the ball is immense, but his perseverance, out of all, has caught the eye. He could start as a full-back and not look one jot out of place.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott could learn a thing or two (or ten) from him. I'd argue that the former has already been inspired. Chamberlain had one of his best games since that run in February of this year. I really thought 2014/15 would have been the year he stepped his game and became a preferable headache for the manager. Until yesterday, he had disappointed. Against Burnley, though, he did well. He used his physique well, created pockets of space for himself and caused trouble through crosses and cutbacks.

Chamberlain has plenty of the attributes to strike oil in the league. He's quick, hefty and versatile. His early days at Arsenal also suggested a very potent right foot and an eye for goal. What he lacks is consistency, something which may or may not come in time. I hope that Wenger looks at him and carefully manages him throughout this season. He's a valuable asset who could, and would be a massive player. Whether it's for Arsenal or elsewhere remains to be seen.

The pairing of Sanchez and Chamberlain, added with a touch of Welbeck and Santi were all over Burnley. It must be noted, though, that the latter pair were wasteful. For obvious reasons it was Cazorla's misses that were highlighted for they were more noticeable (and the fact that he has been wayward for a long time), but Welbeck was equally frustrating as well. He couldn't really complain about a lack of service or the team underperforming "as a whole". When the team was in full flow, he was still anonymous. Perhaps it's fatigue.

Our first goal typified what Alexis is all about. His constant pressing and tenacity cuts him a leading, talismanic figure. Chambers only had to cross it in and Sanchez did the rest - hurtling like a motorbike and guiding home a header after rising highest to the ball. Even height isn't an issue for this guy!

The second goal came before I had a chance to feel its imminence. Welbeck shot a corner straight at an impressive Heaton and Chambers slid home the rebound. The fact that it was such a likeable and hardworking guy like Calum who had scored simply added to the feelgood factor surrounding the stadium.

And if that had the fans buoyant, Theo Walcott's entry sent them ballistic. Now, I still don't believe that he'll create any season-defining moments until December, but having a player who - until doing his ACL - has consistently produced the goods had to be a huge psychological boost.

Me? I was just pleased that he hadn't lost much of his pace!

Meanwhile, Podolski said "Hey look, I came on too" by almost scoring a brace. Should we manage to find a position that works for him and the team, words can't fathom how instrumental he could be. There are aspects of him which understandably frustrate many - his unwillingness to track back, his declining workrate, or his general anonymity when things aren't going right - but his positioning and left foot makes up for it. For obvious reasons he's a very likeable guy, and I'd be very sad the day he leaves.

In the post-match presser, what I found particularly intriguing was Wenger's quotes on Alexis, saying:

"It looks to me that he’s really dangerous through the centre of the pitch because he’s in full confidence, he’s physically strong, he likes to take people on as well and he makes perfect runs."

Add that to his previous quotes of "Alexis can play as striker all his life" and it's reasonable to believe Wenger will play Sanchez as a center forward once Walcott has found his feet. Assuming everyone is fit, perhaps a front three of Walcott - Cazorla - Sanchez is what the manager would prefer, because I reckon the manager would be averse to playing Sanchez and Walcott on both flanks. It'll be interesting to see what Wenger makes of our various options.

With our luck, though, I doubt a day will come when we have all of our forward options available at the same time.

All in all a good performance, but one I won't get carried away with, simply because it was only Burnley. It's understandable to still feel worried about our attacking potency (despite having so many quality choices) after we struggled to break the worst team in the league for 70 minutes. Of course, most of it could be put down to luck, but we've been playing that card for too long to know that there have to be other factors at hand.

Hopefully they're sorted before we meet Anderlecht, because that's a game we could use three points out of.

Right, that's that. Time to troll a Liverpool fan. Enjoy the Manchester derby!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]