The Barcelona transfer scored the match's only goal and showcased a ridiculous amount of energy throughout the match while appearing to be the best player on the pitch. Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph summed up the performance:
Impressed with Alexis Sanchez. Work-rate, pace, finish. Even when ball not coming his way (early on), he never stopped running. #afc— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 27, 2014
With Olivier Giroud going down with an ankle injury, Alexis was asked to fill in at striker instead of his normal spot as a winger. While he was not great in the role in 45 minutes against Everton, manager Arsene Wenger explained, "You do not convict a player on one half. It was not all bad. There was some quality in what he did. I just felt, on the day, we needed some more physical presence," via Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail.
The player returned to the centre against Besiktas while attempting to make a big impact in the play-off match.
Unfortunately, he still struggled in the first few minutes, causing Max Bretos of ESPN FC to call for Arsenal to bring in a new striker:
Geez, Arsenal could use a striker.— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) August 27, 2014
However, this all changed moments before the end of the first half. Alexis ended up in perfect position on a Mesut Ozil touch and was able to fire it home for the first goal of the match:
Phil McNulty of BBC Sport provides his thoughts on the score:
Just the job and right on time. Alexis Sanchez puts Arsenal ahead with an angled finish. Right on the interval.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) August 27, 2014
Not only was this his first career goal for Arsenal, but it came in a competition that he struggled to perform in last season, according to WhoScored.com:
Alexis Sánchez: After failing to score in the competition last term, it took Sánchez just 118 mins to score his first CL goal of the season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 27, 2014
As The Sun points out, helping the club get into the next stage of Champions League is extremely important:
If Arsenal win 1-0, Alexis Sanchez may have just justified his fee with that one goal. #afc— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) August 27, 2014
On the other hand, Tom Williams of AFP joked that he was about to criticize Alexis for a weak half before the goal:
*Quietly deletes half-time tweet about Alexis Sanchez not making an impact...*— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) August 27, 2014
Obviously, you want a player to make plays throughout all 90 minutes of a match, but in his current role it is most important to score goals. His ability to put the ball into the net can help you overlook other issues.
As the second half continued, there were further questions about whether the 25-year-old player can stick in the role up front. James McNicholas of Gunnerblog and Bleacher Report sees potential for him in this role:
You can't yet say that Alexis Sanchez is an accomplished centre-forward. However, there's no doubt that he has all the attributes to be one.— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) August 27, 2014
One thing that was certainly on display in the second half was his incredible work rate. He caused great problems for the opposing defenders with his willingness to get to every ball and as Arsenal described, earning free kicks:
He also showed off his impressive footwork to beat three defenders at one point:
Alexis Sanchez is class http://t.co/i8SoTWg2ol— Football Vines (@FootballVines) August 27, 2014
Arsenal were forced to become more defensive after Mathieu Debuchy was sent off with a red card, which limited Alexis' impact in the final 20 minutes. However, it was a strong performance as the club was able to hold on for the victory.
Getting into the group stage of Champions League was the primary goal in this play-off, and they accomplished that with a narrow 1-0 aggregate win. Still, this match could become a trial for what happens for the rest of the season in all competitions.
Although Alexis might not have been brought to England to be a true striker, he has shown a lot of ability in this role.
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