Wenger hails Sanchez
LONDON — Alexis xis Sanchez became the first Arsenal player sincence Thierry Henry to score over 20 goals in his first season and manager Arsene Wenger said aid the Chilean has exceeded all his expectations. tions.
The effervescent nt 26-year-old scored a brace in Arsenal’s 3-1 1 Premier League victory against Hull City on Monday to take his tally to 24 goals in all l competitions in his debut campaign.
Sanchez has sett the Premier League alight since his £35 millionlion arrival from Barcelona in the close seasonson though his impressive goal tally tells onlyly part of the story of his impact at the Emirates ates Stadium.
The attacking midfielder has also contributed 11 assists andnd plays with an unrivalled energy and enthusiasmusiasm to inspire an Arsenal team who have claimedaimed 28 points from a possible 30 to all butt secure Champions league qualification for an 18th successive season.
His 24 goals, includingncluding 16 in the Premier League, have come me in all manners from unstoppable long-range nge thunderbolts to deft finishes at the end of mazy runs.
Arsenal have boastedoasted some of Europe’s most gifted attackingking midfielders during Wenger’s tenureure but few combined that with the tenacityacity and competitiveness of Sanchez ez who has taken to the physically ly demanding Premier League likeike a duck to water.
Earlier this seasoneason Arsenal great Henry, who scored 175 Pre mier League goals for the club, said Sanchez had been Wenger’s “best signing in the last six years”.
Henry joined the club from Italian giants Juventus in 1999 and scored 26 goals in all competitions in his first season in Arsenal colours and surpassed the 20 goal mark in seven successive seasons.
Wenger, who holds Sanchez in similarly high esteem, has regularly purred over the consistently scintillating performances of his marquee player.
“Yes; he has exceeded all my expectations, because I expected him to be more of a provider than a goalscorer,” Wenger told Sky Sports.
“And especially because I play him on the flank where you have less chances. But he has the timing and the quality of his runs are very good and he gets in good positions to finish.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has challenged his Arsenal side to finish the season unbeaten and secure second place in the Premier League.
The Gunners cruised to a 3-1 win at Hull City on Monday, their 10th straight match unbeaten all but securing a top-four finish for the 18th successive season.
Chelsea were crowned champions on Sunday but Wenger said finishing second for the first time in a decade was an important target in a campaign that could yet end with holders Arsenal retaining the FA Cup in a Wembley final against Aston Villa later this month.
“For me it makes a difference,” said Wenger. “We want to finish as high as we can. That’s a competitive attitude,” added the veteran French boss who has been in charge of the north London giants since September 1996.
“We’ve secured only top four. Let’s see if we can maintain the run.
“We set ourselves a target to continue to make progress as a team and this was a demonstration that we can improve and keep the quality high. We played the football we love to play for long periods in the game.”
No team has collected more Premier League points than Arsenal in 2015 but inconsistency in the first half of the season proved costly for a club last crowned champions of England 11 years ago.
Asked whether Arsenal could mount a title challenge next season, Wenger said: “Ask me in August. Give me a breather. What is at stake now is to finish second.
“We want to continue to win our games as we’re doing now. I’m not a prophet.
“Football is unpredictable; no one knows how strong teams will be at the start of the season. What is important is to start strong.
“We want to finish as high as we can. It’s about giving your maximum until the last day.
“Not having to think about the Champions League qualifier — it is better for the sleep during the summer,” the 65-year-old Wenger added.
Alexis Sanchez scored twice and Aaron Ramsey was on target as the Gunners cruised into a 3-0 halftime lead.
Stephen Quinn’s header –- his first goal of the season -– gave Hull hope but the visitors stayed in control of a match where Arsenal took their goal tally for the season to 100 in all competitions.
“It shows we are an offensive team who like
West Ham United
to win going forward,” Wenger said.
“It’s most important that we have made progress from the start of the season and people look at us in a different way to what they did in September,” he explained.
“We are consistent and passed a few tests in a positive way. It’s important to keep the attitude in the side and improve.”
Steve Bruce’s Hull had beaten Crystal Palace and Liverpool in their previous two matches but this defeat meant they slipped a place to 17th, going below Leicester on goal difference.
However, Hull are still a point above the relegation zone heading into Saturday’s match at home to bottom-of-the-table Burnley, who need a win at the KC Stadium to avoid being demoted to the second-tier Championship.
“We have to respond,” said Hull manager Bruce. “We have to dust ourselves down and get ready for the weekend and the next few games because we are still in there with a shout (of avoiding relegation).
“It (the Burnley game) is not going to keep us up or send us down because there are still two games after that. We still have it all to do and it is a big game, we are aware of that.”
Fixtures P W PTS 35 25 83 35 21 70 34 21 70 35 19 65 35 18 61 35 17 58 35 17 57 35 15 53 35 12 47 35 13 47 35 11 44 35 11 42 35 10 40 35 9 35 35 9 35 35 9 34 35 8 34 34 6 33 35 7 27 35 5 26 BARCELONA — Barcelona are confident Dani Alves (pictured) will remain at the club beyond the end of the season.
The Brazil international has yet to sign a new deal despite his current contract expiring this summer.
The 31-year-old right-back has been linked with Manchester United and Manchester City in recent months although Paris St Germain remain favourites for his signature.
“Alves is much closer to staying at the club than leaving,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said to Catalan TV station TV3. “We have asked him to stay.
“We are negotiating with his agent because he is an important player, not just now but for many years.
“He is eager to continue to fight and work hard.
“We hope that in the end he will accept and that the club can offer him what he deserves.
“I’d rather not get into the state of negotiations, but Dani wants to remain and Barca wants him to stay.
“When the two sides share a common aim, it’s easy to reach an agreement.”
Alves has made 42 appearances this season for the Primera Division leaders, including 27 league starts.
The South American, who joined the Catalan outfit in 2008 from Sevilla, has won four Primera Division titles, two Copa del Rey trophies and the Champions League twice.
Barca cannot make any signings until 2016 after being handed a transfer ban for breaching FIFA’S rules on the transfer of players aged under 18. — Sportinglife