Improving Arsenal primed for top four challenge
With the inspirational Alexis Sanchez in full flow, the treatment room emptying and a decent run of fixtures on the horizon, Arsenal seem to be priming themselves for another assault on the top four.
London: With the inspirational Alexis Sanchez in full flow, the treatment room emptying and a decent run of fixtures on the horizon, Arsenal seem to be priming themselves for another assault on the top four.
While they are still too prone to some feeble capitulations on the road, the way they breezed to a comfortable 3-0 victory at home to Stoke City on Sunday will help pacify those who have criticised manager Arsene Wenger this season.
Chilean Sanchez scored twice after Laurent Koscielny`s headed opener to avenge a humbling 3-2 defeat against the same opponents in December, their third loss in five matches, and fifth-placed Arsenal have won six and drawn one of their last eight games in all competitions.
Overlook the New Year`s Day defeat by top-four rivals Southampton and there is mounting evidence that the inconsistencies that plagued Arsenal during their worst ever start to a Premier League season seem to have, at least temporarily, evaporated.
During their recent improvement the Gunners have progressed in both the Champions League and FA Cup where they have been handed kind draws in the shape of AS Monaco and Brighton and Hove Albion respectively.
Recent history suggests Arsenal finish the Premier League season strongly and a fairly kind fixture list over the next two months should give theme the momentum they have lacked so far.
They visit champions Manchester City next weekend but thereafter five of the six teams they play are languishing in the bottom half of the table.
Manager Arsene Wenger had the luxury of naming the returning trio of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey on the bench against Stoke - as formidable a bench as any club could muster.
"That`s a luxury, I must say, when you have that quality on the bench. I didn`t even risk players like Ramsey who comes back from a muscular injury," Wenger told Sky Sports.
"We had (Mathieu) Flamini as well and (Joel) Campbell and we had plenty of top quality on the bench and that is course is lucky for a manager."
Arsenal were again led by the effervescent Sanchez who played with the refreshing zest and energy that is cementing reputation as one of the Premier League`s most feared attackers.
His 12 league goals and seven assists since joining from Barcelona represents the highest goal involvement of any Premier League player.
"Alexis Sanchez is one of the best players. He`s a fighter with a combination of talent and fighting spirit which is very difficult to find," the Wenger said.
"He plays with passion and you want people to enjoy what they`re doing on the pitch and show it as well."