Praise for Sanchez, sympathy for Balotelli

Praise for Sanchez, sympathy for Balotelli

Both are new to their clubs, but while Mario Balotelli has been generating lots of headlines at Liverpool, he has been far less prolific on the football pitch.

Fortunately for Arsenal, the same cannot be said about the "super" Alexis Sanchez, who took his tally to eight goals in 15 appearances for the Gunners with his two goals at Sunderland on Saturday.

After the match, which Arsenal won 2-0, manager Arsene Wenger singled out the Chile international, a £30 million (S$62 million) pre-season signing from Barcelona, for praise. His two goals helped the club avoid their worst-ever start to a season under the Frenchman.

Victory saw Arsenal secure just a second win in their last eight league games but meant they recorded back-to-back wins in the space of three days after a 2-1 Champions League success away to Anderlecht.

Failure to secure a fourth consecutive victory at the Stadium of Light would have condemned Arsenal to their lowest points tally after the opening nine games of a league campaign during Wenger's 18-year reign.

"Alexis Sanchez took advantage of the mistakes Sunderland made," said Wenger. "He has a super quality and he is quick on his feet. That's why he wins so many balls that normal players don't win.

"His transition from offence to defence is very quick. He wins the ball back very quickly and he can take advantage of that."

While Wenger was singing Sanchez's praises, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was once again left to defend the under-performing Balotelli as the misfiring Italian striker had to endure another fruitless afternoon in front of goal at Anfield on Saturday.

The Italy forward has scored just once for the Reds in 11 appearances since his £16 million pre-season move from AC Milan and has yet to do so in the Premier League for his new club.

After Balotelli had again failed to break his league goal-scoring duck for Liverpool in the 0-0 draw with Hull City, Rodgers, who had been unimpressed by the striker's midweek half-time shirt swop during the Champions League defeat by Real Madrid, offered a more sympathetic verdict.

Reflecting on an improved effort by the striker, Rodgers said: "I thought he worked very well, very hard. He maybe thought he wasn't going to play today but you have got to stay with it. He is working hard and he is doing his best."

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