Arsenal: Yes, the Alexis Sanchez celebrations are significant

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their third goall during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on December 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their third goall during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on December 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /
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After Alexis Sanchez scored two goals in Arsenal’s win against Crystal Palace, only half his teammates celebrated with him. Unfortunately, it is a significant development.

Alexis Sanchez scored two wonderful goals in the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Thursday night: the first was a ferocious, fizzing near-post firecracker that was hit viciously early with a very short backlift, catching Julian Speroni unawares; the second was more finesse than fire, caressing Jack Wilshere’s lofted through pass with the outside of his thigh before prodding a shot into the bottom corner.

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Arsenal won the game in large part because of Sanchez. These were the two key moments of quality that separated the two sides in the second half. That is, I guess, Sanchez’s role. That is the role of any world-class player: to create moments of brilliance that win matches.

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But after the win, no one is discussing the excellence of the Chilean’s performance. Instead, debates centre on the celebrations, the aftermath, not the distinction itself.

The problem is a simple one: After Sanchez scored his first goal, only four or five of his teammates joined him to celebrate. Sanchez is clearly ushering over others, but they gather on the halfway line instead, celebrating the goal, but not with Sanchez. And then, after Sanchez scored his second goal, a very similar thing happened: perhaps a couple more of his teammates joined in with his celebrations, but there was a clear distinction with a number of others who separated themselves from the game-winner.

The first to point out the problem was Thierry Henry during Sky Sports’ showing of the game. His, and Graeme Souness’, point was that when your team scores, you are not mindful enough to question who scored it and then choose to not celebrate with them. When your team scores a goal, instinct of the moment takes over. You celebrate with your teammates. But that is not what happened here. Some of the Arsenal players consciously chose to not celebrate with Sanchez. And that is significant.

I am not usually taken in by the things that happen around the game, all of the transfer rumours that are born through social media, all of the behind-the-scenes, hidden-meaning rifts and arguments and the ramifications that they can have. But in this case, I take a different stance. Some of the Arsenal players not celebrating with Sanchez is a very worrying sign. This is a splintered and fractured squad. Rarely do they achieve success.

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Sanchez is driving a wedge into this squad. It is very concerning indeed. Arsene Wenger must manage this extremely carefully. Let’s hope that he has the wherewithal and tact to do so.