Cazorla, Sanchez key to Arsenal's final flourish

Cazorla, Sanchez key to Arsenal's final flourish
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (L) is tackeled by Manchester City's Martin Demichelis during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England January 18, 2015.

It is no surprise that Arsenal's 2-0 win over Manchester City - at the Etihad Stadium, no less - comes at a time when they boast two of the English Premier League's most in-form players.

Yes, credit has to be given to the way the Gunners defended as a team. Laurent Koscielny was solid in defence while defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin protected the backline superbly. Everyone worked his socks off, with Olivier Giroud doing well as a lone striker too.

But in Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners have two attackers capable of unlocking the tightest of defences and winning matches on their own - and so it proved against the defending champions on Sunday.

The diminutive Cazorla, in particular, is playing his best football since joining Arsenal from Spanish club Malaga in 2012. Against City, the Spaniard bagged his fifth goal and fourth assist this season.

I was concerned with how the 1.68m Cazorla would cope with the physical nature of English football when he joined the Gunners.

But with his close control, mobility, vision and low centre of gravity - which gives him greater balance - he has proved to be an astute signing and a cornerstone for this Arsenal team.

The same goes for Sanchez who, for me, is the signing of the season. The Chilean has adapted to the EPL astonishingly quickly.

He is versatile and dangerous no matter where he plays.

It is a nightmare to mark players like him and Cazorla as they can change direction and pace effortlessly - attributes that tall players like me find difficult to counter.

The duo's form, coupled with the morale-boosting win over City, will be crucial in helping Arsenal gain momentum as the season enters its final straight.

The inconsistent Gunners, who have not won more than two league games in a row this season, are now fifth in the table, one point off fourth place.

Arsene Wenger's men face Aston Villa, Tottenham, Leicester and Crystal Palace next month.

Aside from the trip to White Hart Lane to take on arch rivals Spurs, these are all winnable games. Arsenal, who have now won their last two league matches, must capitalise on this run of games if they want to finish in the top four.

Sanchez and Cazorla have combined for 17 goals and 11 assists in the league this season and Arsenal fans will hope the duo can help propel the team on a long winning streak in the league.

It will not be easy to make the top four this season.

Every team from third to eighth won their matches last weekend, showing how competitive the race for a coveted Champions League spot is.

But with the likes of record signing Mesut Oezil, speedy winger Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey slowly finding form and fitness after long injury lay-offs, the Gunners look equipped to tackle the remainder of the season.

I still think they need to sign a central defender this month but it is difficult to find someone who can fit into the team at such a crucial stage of the season.

While challenging for the title is a step too far, finishing third would be a fantastic achievement for Arsenal this season.


This article was first published on January 20, 2015.
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