Arsenal 3 Stoke City 0

Alexis Sanchez is rightly being lauded as the buy of theseason, after weekly performances that continue to drive his team back towardstheir annual top four spot in the Premier League. It is clear why Brendan Rodgerswas keen to add him to his side as a close replacement for the departing LuisSuarez in the summer, and he may even end up becoming the heir to the awardsthat the tainted Uruguayan received last season at the end of this one. Stokewere (like several other teams before them) unable to handle the livelyChilean, despite the best efforts of their consistent keeper Asmir Begovic, whowas the main reason for the Arsenal advantage not being even higher by the endof the match.

As it was, Arsene Wenger’s men had to be content with “just”the three from their day’s work with Sanchez involved in all of them. The earlyfirst goal was crucial to set the pattern of play for the remainder of the gameand to settle any home nerves, ensuring that Stoke were not able to dig in andgain a foothold in the match. On six minutes, Sanchez curled in a teasing crossfrom the left with his cultured right foot that Laurent Koscielny guided pastBegovic with his head, proof yet again that the Frenchman is as good as anyonewhen he gets himself in those positions in the box.

Arsenal sensed that Stoke were there for the taking andmissed several other opportunities or were denied by the brilliance of Begovic,including a shot from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that flew narrowly wide of thepost.

They could not deny the astute Sanchez though as he fed on a defensive slip,played a neat one-two to glide into the area and then scored from an acuteangle at the near post, when everyone else expected him to go for the widertarget to the other side of the goal. Great strikers know where the goal is, asthey have a picture of it in their heads, and Sanchez seems to have his guidancesystem well-tuned at present.

That made it seventeen goals for the season forhim already with surely more to come.

The second-half was always likely to be less energeticfor the Gunners with the result more or less confirmed, but they capped a fine displaywith another Sanchez strike from a free-kick. Begovic for once erred as theball squirmed through his hands and over the line to put the gloss on the homeside’s work.

More chances followed for the Londoners through Santi Cazorla and TheoWalcott but were missed as Stoke were well beaten on the day.

Arsenal lie fifth after the result, only a point behindfourth place Manchester United (after their disappointing home defeat toSouthampton), as Wenger’s side close in on their expected Champions Leaguequalification place. With Sanchez in this form they may go even higher.