Wenger hails Sanchez

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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

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Team

Chelsea

Manch­ester City

Ar­se­nal

Manch­ester United

Liver­pool

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur

Southamp­ton

Swansea City

West Ham United

Stoke City

Ever­ton

Crys­tal Palace

West Brom

As­ton Villa

New­cas­tle United

Le­ices­ter City

Hull City

Sun­der­land

Queens Park

Burn­ley

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

Alexis sanchez

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