Player focus: Alexis gradually finds his groove v Southampton

Alexis Sánchez has been criticised for some lacklustre performances of late, where he has only shown flashes of the world-class ability we’ve become accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis.

On this occasion, there were worries that the same would occur again after a slow start to proceedings.

In the first-half, Alexis was relatively quiet and his contribution not particularly noticeable. Partly due to the slow tempo of the match until the half-hour mark, he was constantly dropping deep to receive the ball and tried to do too much in his attempts to create a chance of note.

Relinquishing possession too easily at times made it all the more frustrating to watch as Arsenal dominated statistics with the ball but didn’t conjure up significant goal-scoring chances.

Alexis had a tendency to try too much too frequently in attempts to increase Arsenal’s attacking tempo – to no avail in the first-half. (Picture source: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

In the second-half though, this was completely different. Arsenal needed attacking urgency in search of the all-important opener and unsurprisingly, Alexis was comfortable providing the bulk of it with his direct running and quick feet proving too much for Southampton to handle once he got going.

For all his critics, Mesut Özil lead the way with a whopping six key passes against Southampton. One on the edge of the area for Alexis was enough to break the deadlock with aplomb. Effortlessly skipping past both Yoshida and Stephens before a deft dummy cleared the path for him to strike, Alexis made no mistake by hitting hard and low into the bottom corner beyond Fraser Forster.

If ever the game needed a moment of magic, this was it.

Say what you want about his polarising work-rate and attitude at Arsenal but the ability to win matches almost single-handedly just reiterates why failing to sign a contract extension could prove detrimental for the Gunners’ hopes of progression in future seasons.

This seemed to burst Arsenal into life during a match they could’ve easily lost, especially given the way Southampton seemed threatening on the counter-attack.

Sometimes, Alexis’s risky passes resulted in possession being lost. To his credit though, you could see it spurred him on to try harder and he also played a part in Olivier Giroud’s header to wrap up all three points after 83 minutes.

It was his well-struck delivery to Aaron Ramsey near the far post which proved pivotal in the build-up. The Welshman flicked a header onto an unmarked Giroud, who made no mistake to score his 10th league goal of the campaign.

Despite a tendency to play too many risky passes, his vision and awareness of team-mates caught Southampton’s backline unaware as he helped set up Giroud’s close-range finish.

Alexis’ individual match statistics (per WhoScored):

– 66 touches, 43 passes with 76.7% accuracy
– Most completed dribbles at St. Mary’s with eight
– Fouled once, dispossessed three times, four unsuccessful touches

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