11 May Wenger praises wonder player
Arsene Wenger praised the “invention” of Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean hit his 20th Premier League goal of the season to lead Arsenal to victory at Southampton.
The 28-year-old struck on the hour with a cool finish as the Gunners took full advantage of their game in hand to close in on the top four.
Sanchez then played a big part in the second goal as Olivier Giroud came off the bench to head home late on and secure a 2-0 win, with Southampton not offering much in the way of an upset.
This victory – Arsenal’s first at St Mary’s since late 2003 – takes Wenger’s side above Manchester United and into fifth, just three points off Manchester City and Champions League qualification.
A quality Petr Cech save from Nathan Redmond aside, the opening 60 minutes were largely forgettable until Sanchez collected a Mesut Ozil pass.
The former Barcelona man turned back inside and left two Saints defenders on the ground before slotting home.
Not only did the goal see Sanchez reach 20 goals for the first time in a Premier League season but it also took him onto 14 away goals for the campaign – the most by anyone this year.
And Wenger, who remains under pressure following a string of bad results, knew who to thank for what could prove to be a vital win.
“The goal he scored tonight shows what he’s about: very good technique in a short space,” he said of Sanchez.
“He scores important goals. Tonight is not a 5-0… 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 as expecting him to take a shot, but he’s very quick on the move. Giroud came on and the second goal was very important for us, too.”
Wenger also hailed the character of his side after they continued their resurgence following a terrible run of form which saw them go from title contenders to sixth in the table – pointing to the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City as the turning point.
“I never questioned the character of my side,” he said.
“We went through a bad patch. It’s a good opportunity to show your character, how you come back and how you recover.
“Maybe the City game gave us confidence. Let’s not go too quickly to conclusions, and focus and give everything at Stoke on Saturday.
“We know we can only win our games, and we had a strong performance on Sunday. A strong performance today. So let’s just continue.”
Wenger confirmed former Southampton man Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off in the first half with a hamstring problem – but is hoping it was mainly fatigue for the England international.
The defeat for Southampton leaves Claude Puel’s side in mid-table and marks a third successive game without a goal for Saints.
Wenger’s compatriot and former player bemoaned the bluntness of his attacking players, with Manolo Gabbiadini guilty of wasting their best chance at 0-0.
“We cannot find the good clinical edge,” said 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.”