MASTER OF INVENTION
Chilean scores one and helps create a second in Arsenal’s win over Southampton
ARSENE Wenger hailed Alexis Sanchez’s unique qualities after the Chilean opened the scoring in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Southampton and then created a second goal for substitute Olivier Giroud.
Wednesday’s victory took Arsenal to within three points of the Premier League top four and keeps alive the possibility of a 20th successive season of Champions League football for the north London club.
Sanchez broke the deadlock in the 60th minute at St Mary’s, gathering Mesut Ozil’s pass and leaving two defenders sprawling before firing home his 20th goal of the league campaign.
“The goal he scored tonight shows what he’s about: very good technique in a short space,” Wenger said.
“He scores important goals. He has invention in his head. He’s creative, not phased by anything, and he surprised everyone in the stadium tonight with his goal.
“Everyone was expecting him to take a shot, but he’s very quick on the move.”
It was Sanchez’s cross that Aaron Ramsey headed back across goal for Giroud to nod in the visitors’ second goal in the 83rd minute.
“Giroud came on and the second goal was very important for us, too,” Wenger added.
“We had to (dig deep) because Southampton started at a strong pace. The first half was quite even, but we were focused and determined.
“I felt if you look at individual performances you couldn’t be disappointed from the goalkeeper to Danny Welbeck. Everybody played well.”
Now Arsenal must keep the pressure on the top four by showing the same focus and winning their three remaining matches, starting at Stoke City tomorrow.
Wenger knows that even nine points might not be enough to guarantee a top-four finish, but he says his team have no option but to win the games in front of them.
Wenger is likely to be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Stoke after he left the field in the first half with a hamstring problem. But it is too early to say whether he will be back in time for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 27.
“He was walking properly. It was tight, not like a knife,” Wenger said.
“It was more fatigue, but it’s difficult to assess so close.”
Southampton remain 10th after failing to find the net for the third game in succession.
“We cannot find the good clinical edge,” said beaten manager Claude Puel.
“Every time it was interesting, I think, the play. Just not enough.
“All the games the same thing. We saw our games since the beginning of the season, many games where we’ve had the same feeling.
“Opportunities, chances, good play, but no clinical edge.” AFP
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez (centre) scores their first goal against Southampton during their Premier League match on Wednesday.