Player focus: Alexis Sanchez puts in silky performance v Chelsea

It was another excellent performance from the talented Chilean, who showed his world class quality in a number of different situations against a Chelsea side who came but were ultimately unprepared for Alexis’ tireless running and admirable workrate.

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Alexis was constantly looking for the ball to feet, and when out of possession, remained eager to press high up the pitch. This proved pivotal during the build-up to Arsenal’s first goal, where he continued to apply pressure on Chelsea’s centrebacks off the ball, to devastating effect.

As shown by the two pictures below, he was the first and only Arsenal player to initiate a press forward with Chelsea’s backline in possession near the centre circle. His energy, coupled with impressive acceleration, meant that Gary Cahill was forced into a mistake, resulting in the first goal of the evening, one which allowed us to control the remainder of the match.

As illustrated by this picture, Alexis is the first and only player to press Chelsea’s centre-backs whilst they have possession near the centre circle.
The gap between Cahill and Luiz is too big so when Alexis presses the former into losing possession, neither is able to recover quickly enough to stop the Chilean from running through unopposed.

It was fitting that on his 100th club appearance for Arsenal, he’d produce moments of individual brilliance like that. But even still, he wasn’t done there. His well-struck free-kick effort was goal bound if not for an interception from the wall, before registering an eyecatching assist to set-up Mesut Özil on the stroke of the interval.

Their combination play is near telepathic at times and it was evident once more in this instance, where he was able to drag both Chelsea centre-backs toward his path before beating them to the ball. His resulting pass was a looping delivery in the area for Mesut to strike goalward, and the German was on hand to finish a brilliant counter-attacking move.

In this picture, you can see that Alexis (who is onside) has dragged both centre-backs with him, allowing Mesut time and space to roam further forward.
As both centre-backs followed Alexis, neither was able to track Mesut’s run after the initial pass had been played towards the Chilean, meaning his looping delivery was on a plate for Ozil to finish.

It was moments like these where Alexis’ spatial awareness, as well as his intelligence, spoke volumes. He had the know-how to draw players away from teammates with seeming ease whilst showing quality in abundance to deliver when needed.

A warm reception from the home supporters, and deservedly so, after being taken off for Olivier Giroud with the result all but sealed, his overall contribution was ultimately pivotal in helping Arsenal to a famous victory over our fierce rivals.

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