ARSENE Wenger believes Alexis Sanchez can continue to inspire Arsenal towards a successful end to the season after the Chile forward produced another virtuoso display in a 3-0 win over Stoke at the Emirates Stadium.
Sanchez scored twice to help sink the Potters, his first a brilliant individual effort on 33 minutes having earlier set up Laurent Koscielny’s opener to continue his superb form following a £30million summer transfer from Barcelona.
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Wenger is in no doubt surrounding the importance of the consistent performances from Arsenal’s star man.
“The better the team plays, the more he is involved in the game,” said Wenger, who confirmed full-back Mathieu Debuchy was set for a spell on the sidelines having dislocated his shoulder. “We had a very offensive team today and Sanchez is confident. We can be direct with him, you can run at people a bit more, so there is a good combination offensively.”
Wenger was happy to see Arsenal produce the required collective display, which was in stark contrast to when they had lost away at Stoke in early December. He said: “I think we moved very well and we didn’t give them any opportunity to get in too many physical challenges. What was important for me is that we kept a good concentration to play the game how we want to play and also that we kept a clean sheet at the back. Overall, I must say that everybody played very well.
“The only negative today is that we lost another experienced defender with a dislocated shoulder. That gives us a problem because we are already short of experienced players at the back.”
Debuchy, who had only just returned from an ankle problem, was carried off during the first half when he fell into the advertising hoardings after colliding with Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic.
Wenger said: “He has a dislocated shoulder. It is difficult [to say how long he will be out]. You need a diagnosis from a specialist.
“We don’t know yet, but he will certainly not play next week. Kieran Gibbs still has an inflamed ankle.
“Monreal and Debuchy can play centre-back, but, if Gibbs is not here, Monreal cannot play centre-back and if Debuchy is not here, he cannot play centre-back. This is where we are short.”
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, meanwhile, had been left to watch on from the bench as Colombian David Ospina made his Barclays Premier League debut, the Poland international having found himself the centre of some negative headlines earlier this week for smoking in the showers after the defeat at Southampton. Wenger, however, stressed his decision was not based on any disciplinary action.
The Arsenal boss said: “I do not want to talk too much about that because the more I talk, the less I inform you. You know how you can take a decision [like that as a player]. It was a decision for today’s game.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes admitted Stoke could just not cope with Sanchez. “When you see the power he has got and the pace, he is outstanding,” said Hughes. “When you try to close him down in close areas, he has intelligence and understands where everyone is.”
Stoke had not won at Arsenal since August 1981, and were trailing again after five minutes. Begovic pushed an angled drive from Tomas Rosicky behind, Sanchez’s corner was only half-cleared and Koscielny played the loose ball back out to the Chile international. Centre-back Koscielny ran off into the six-yard box and ghosted in unmarked to plant a firm header past Begovic after a peach of a cross from Sanchez.
Arsenal were soon forced into a defensive change as Debuchy dislocated his shoulder after colliding with Arnautovic and was replaced by Hector Bellerin in the 13th minute.
But they went two goal up after the half-hour with a goal of the highest order from Sanchez. A quick exchange with Rosicky put Sanchez in space on the right. He darted into the penalty area, where he turned Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross inside-out before clipping the ball past Begovic.
Stoke looked to regroup for the second half, with Steven Nzonzi replaced by Steve Sidwell and Erik Pieters by Marc Muniesa. However, it was 3-0 and game over in the 49th minute.
Sidwell tripped Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the penalty area. Sanchez’s low free-kick took a deflection off Geoff Cameron and Begovic could only push the ball against the post before it squirmed over the line.
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