Arsenal overcame Brighton in professional fashion on Sunday. It was Alexis Sanchez that was their primary attacking threat. He is the game-changer for this season.
There were plenty of moving parts for Arsenal throughout the summer transfer window. From the future of their 20-year manager to the potential sale of the club after a bid from Alisher Usmanov, there were a whole host of different problems that needed to be solved, some of which would have huge ramifications on the very fabric of the club.
From a player personnel perspective, there was no bigger question than the future of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean, with just one more year remaining on his contract and a quality and calibre above what the absence of Champions League football perhaps commands, was thought to be hankering for a departure, and after a transfer deadline day move fell through, his motivation and competitiveness were questioned when he returned.
More from Pain in the Arsenal
- Arsenal and Mikel Arteta have one final shot at redemption
- Arsenal not capitalising on dominance has structural origins
- Burnley vs Arsenal: 4 talking points from infuriating draw
- Arsenal vs Burnley: Lack of concentration Mikel Arteta’s fault?
- Arsenal player ratings vs Burnley: Granit Xhaka howler in dramatic draw
And there some people who commented on his body language during the Carabao Cup and Europa League wins against Doncaster Rovers and FC Koln respectively. Whether such questions are valid are not is very difficult to answer. However, as the Premier League returned at the weekend with Brighton and Hove Albion coming to the Emirates, Sanchez looked back to his effervescent, vibrant, tireless best.
The 2-0 win was a professional and efficient performance from the Gunners. They were not at their best, often struggling to break down a disciplined Brighton defence that sat deep and looked to frustrate their hosts. But when Arsenal were able to engineer chances, it was often Sanchez who as at the heart of it.
Sanchez was extremely sharp, especially in the second half. He was roaming throughout the pitch, picking the ball up in deep areas, darting one way and then the other, utilising his violent agility to create space, before surging past a defender, driving at the Brighton defence.
It was Sanchez’s awareness and audacity that created the second goal, combining neatly with Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette before playing a backheel to Alex Iwobi, thoroughly fooling the Brighton defence, leaving the Nigerian in acres of space to rifle his shot into the back of the net.
And it was Sanchez who relentlessly pursued a goal for himself throughout the second half: He poked a shot just past the post after a wiggled run past a couple of defenders, and saw a low, curled effort brilliantly tipped around the far post by Matt Ryan, who got down low to his left well.
But while Sanchez himself did not score, and Arsenal only scored twice as a team, there were moments where he showed how razor sharp in and around the penalty area. He is a game-changer, and his staying in the summer could revolutionise the trajectory of this season.