Arsene Wenger heaped praise on Alexis Sanchez after his hat trick in Arsenal’s 5-1 win over West Ham on Saturday, saying he has “all the ingredients” to be a top-class striker.
Sanchez had one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt, setting up the first goal for Mesut Ozil before netting three times himself at the London Stadium.
And he showed off his full range of skills, using a quick turn to get away from a defender before scoring his first goal from a tight angle, then netting his second from outside the box.
He saved the best for last, rounding off the win after he faked a shot with a cheeky dummy before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
“He has all the ingredients to be a top-class striker and he shows that in a game like that today again,” Wenger said about the Chile forward. “He’s quick, he’s quick to close down, he can dribble, he has short back lift, he has a killer instinct.
“It shows again that the South Americans at the moment in world football are the leading strikers. And you have to acknowledge that. If you look through the top strikers in Europe they are basically all South American.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored Arsenal’s fourth goal, also picked up on the South American theme by comparing Sanchez to Manchester City’s Argentina striker Sergio Aguero.
“Alexis Sanchez was brilliant, he gives you that speed in behind opposing defences. He’s like Sergio Aguero in many ways,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told the BBC. “You get balls up to him and he can just make things happen. He’s an amazing player and it’s great to have in the team. We are good on the counter-attack and Mesut Ozil and Alexis are the first to turn and go in behind.”
Wenger said Sanchez even complained about a back problem at half-time, but added: “He looked sharper in the second half than in the first.”
It was a performance that showed again that Sanchez may have found his best position as a central striker, having been used as a winger during his first two seasons at Arsenal. And Wenger acknowledged that Sanchez seems to be enjoying himself more on the pitch in that role.
After Saturday’s game, Sanchez even stopped to take a selfie with West Ham’s ball boys, after giving one of them his shirt.
“He likes the position. But you know how the players are. People like to play as strikers. If it doesn’t work they prefer their first position,” Wenger said. “But when they walk off with the ball under their arm, it’s a good feeling. And I hope that gives him a taste for more.
“But he has the qualities to play there, he has good movement, he’s sharp. Maybe size-wise you could say he’s not the tallest, but he’s quite good in the air when he goes for it.”
Arsenal were only 1-0 up at half-time despite creating a handful of chances, and were often let down by poor passing in the final third. But they turned it into a rout late on, after Sanchez made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute.
“Overall we had a strong team performance for 90 minutes with very few weaker periods,” Wenger said. “With only one regret, that we didn’t take our chances in the first half. … Then you think you can pay for that but we maintained the pressure on West Ham and overall we finished in a very strong way.”
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