Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Sanchez is our master of invention, Wenger says

AFP, SOUTHAMPTON, England

Arsene Wenger on Wednesday hailed Alexis Sanchez’s unique qualities after the Chilean opened the scoring in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Southampton and then created a second goal for substitute Olivier Giroud.

The victory took Arsenal to within three points of the English Premier League top four and kept alive the possibility of a 20th successive season of UEFA Champions League soccer for the north London club.

Sanchez broke the deadlock in the 60th minute at St Mary’s, gathering Mesut Ozil’s pass and leaving two defenders sprawling, before firing home his 20th goal of the league campaign.

“The goal he scored tonight shows what he’s about — very good technique in a short space,” Wenger said. “He scores important goals. He has invention in his head. He’s creative, not phased by anything, and he surprised everyone in the stadium tonight with his goal. Everyone was expecting him to take a shot, but he’s very quick on the move.”

It was Sanchez’s cross that Aaron Ramsey headed back across goal for Giroud to nod in the visitors’ second goal in the 83rd minute.

“Giroud came on and the second goal was very important for us, too,” Wenger said. “We had to [dig deep] because Southampton started at a strong pace. The first half was quite even, but we were focused and determined.”

Now Arsenal must keep the pressure on the top four by showing the same focus and winning their three remaining matches, starting at Stoke City tomorrow.

Wenger knows that even nine points might not be enough to guarantee a top-four finish, but he says his team have no option but to win the games in front of them.

“We’ll need another strong performance at Stoke. We came to a difficult ground today and we go to another on Saturday,” the Frenchman said. “We know we can only win our games, and we had a strong performance on Sunday [beating Manchester United 2-0] and a strong performance today. So let’s just continue.”

Wenger is likely to be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Stoke after he left the pitch in the first half with a hamstring problem, but it is too early to say whether he will be back in time for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 27.

“He was walking properly. It was tight, not like a knife,” Wenger said. “It was more fatigue, but it’s difficult to assess so close.”

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