The 25 year old summer signing scored the vital winner against Besiktas on Wednesday to help Arsene Wenger’s men book their place in the Champions League group stage for the 17th consecutive season.
The Chilean attacker is likely to be the only recognised striker up front after Giroud was ruled out until January, however Keown believes Sanchez is more than capable of starring in a lone role up-front. He said:
I certainly think he can be (a credible alternative to Giroud).
He brings a different set of problems for the opposition to cope with. He’s got phenomenal pace. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with the same tenacity to win the ball back for his team. That work rate he has, you see more of that in central positions than out wide.
When he gets the ball and links with team-mates, sometimes he needs to slow things down a bit and think things through. When you look at someone like Thierry Henry, he wasn’t involved as often, but he picked and chose his moments to make a telling contribution.
I think that’s what Sanchez has to do if he plays through the middle. But the fans love him because of his willingness to run and to take on much bigger men – you can’t bully him.
Sanchez began to repay his £35 million price tag with the only goal of the game against the tireless Besiktas outfit. It was a very different scenario to that at Merseyside at the weekend when the Chilean was withdrawn at half time in favour of Giroud.
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There were some doubts on whether he could play as lone striker in such an important game after such a dire display against Everton, but Sanchez answered the call. He was impressive from the start of the encounter, linking play well and constantly getting behind the defenders. It would have been difficult for him to play with his back to goal as it is quite different to having a flank to run into which he is accustomed to at Barcelona, but he coped well in the physical circumstances.
He was helped by the impressive display of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the flank, however it was Sanchez’s telling touch on the stroke of half time that changed the landscape of the tie. He showed excellent awareness to latch onto a moment of misstep from Wilshere to bury the ball into the bottom corner. The most impressive facet of his performance came in the closing stages, when he defended with great purpose after Debuchy received a ridiculous second yellow card.
The potential is there for all to see and like the majority of his team mates, all the cogs have not yet clicked into place for Sanchez, but the right results have still been claimed in the early stages of the season. The burden of fulfilling a central role alone until the New Year will bring huge expectation and hopefully he can live up to that hype.
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