By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Alexis Sanchez delivered another attacking masterclass as Arsenal eased past Burnley at Emirates Stadium to secure their third successive victory.
The Chile international was the landslide winner of October’s Player of the Month award, and he was almost unplayable here against the Premier League’s bottom club.
He opened the scoring in the 70th minute as he rose highest to head home a Calum Chambers cross, before the teenage defender claimed the first goal of his senior career moments later.
There was further good news as Theo Walcott stepped off the bench in the 81st minute for his first Gunners appearance since sustaining a serious knee injury on January 4.
But there was no doubt as to who the man of the moment was and in injury time Alexis wrapped up another sensational display as he prodded in from close range.
While it may ultimately have been a comfortable victory, there were times during the afternoon when it had not looked quite so straightforward.
The Gunners had dominated the first half, carving out chance after chance - with Alexis going close three times as Santi Cazorla also firing inches wide.
Somehow it remained goalless at the interval, but the Gunners continued to pile on the pressure after the restart.
Just after the hour mark Cazorla had another big opportunity after the ball fell kindly to him six yards out, but his low shot was blocked.
With time ticking on, the tension palpably rose inside the Emirates but finally, on 70 minutes the deadlock was broken as Alexis directed a header beyond Tom Heaton.
Suddenly there was a freedom to Arsenal’s play and within two minutes they had their second, Chambers firing in after a scramble in the Burnley area.
Walcott then stepped off the bench to a rousing reception from the Arsenal, and came close to scoring almost instantly as he forced Heaton into a smart save.
But Alexis was the man of the moment, and it was apt that he completed yet another stirring performance in injury time with his 10th goal of the season.
SETTING THE SCENE
Having won two on the bounce for the first time this season, Arsene Wenger chose to stick with the team that had beaten Sunderland seven days earlier.
It meant Mikel Arteta - on the day of his 100th Premier League appearance for the club - partnering Mathieu Flamini at the base of the midfield once more, with the in-form Alexis back in the No 10 role.
Nacho Monreal continued in the centre of defence alongside Per Mertesacker, while Kieran Gibbs passed a fitness test to take his place at left back. Theo Walcott was once again on the bench, with Yaya Sanogo having recovered from a back injury to join him in place of Joel Campbell.
Burnley came into the match in very different spirits to Arsenal, as the only side in the top four divisions still waiting for their first victory of the season.
However, in the build-up to this match Wenger had been at pains to express his admiration for the spirit and character the Clarets have shown since their return to the top flight, and warned his side against complacency.
On an unseasonably warm November day, Arsenal started in positive fashion - although it soon became clear they would have to break through a well-drilled Burnley defensive wall as the visitors packed men behind the ball.
The Gunners were camped outside the visitors’ box in the early exchanges and had their first sight of goal in the 13th minute as Welbeck combined well with Alexis before seeing his close-range shot blocked by Kieran Trippier.
As a measure of their dominance, the hosts had 81 per cent possession in the opening quarter of the match and could have had a penalty when George Boyd threw out a hand and diverted away Cazorla’s corner.
Still Arsenal pressed and on 26 minutes they had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock.
Once again Alexis was the instigator as he brilliantly span away from Michael Duff and found Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the right of the area. The England had enjoyed a bright start to the game and he took a touch before picking out the onrushing Cazorla in the box, but the Spaniard’s volley flew inches wide.
It was quickly becoming clear that this would be an afternoon where patience was required as another chance went begging just after the half-hour mark.
It was that man Alexis to the fore once more, the Chile international forcing a defensive error before chasing down the loose ball on the right, then cutting inside and unleashing a dipping effort that Tom Heaton palmed away. The ball rolled out to Oxlade-Chamberlain to cut it back to Cazorla in the area, but he miskicked at the vital moment.
The pressure continued to build and moments later Alexis collected the ball outside the area and sent a brilliant, curling effort just past the far post. Within two minutes he was at it again, finding some space to race on to Cazorla’s pass to the left of the area before forcing Heaton into another smart save.
It was one-way traffic - but somehow the scores were level as the half-time whistle blew.
The Gunners stayed firmly on the front foot after the interval but with Burnley growing in confidence, they had to wait until just before the hour mark for their first sight of goal as Heaton saved from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The 21-year-old was - along with Alexis - running the show for the hosts and he again took aim from the edge of the area moments later, but his wicked, swerving shot was deflected just past the post.
With frustration growing, the Gunners had a fabulous chance to ease the tension as Alexis picked out the galloping Chambers in the area. The right back looked up, rolled the ball across goal and it fell to Cazorla six yards out but somehow the Spaniard’s shot was blocked by Duff.
It was starting to look like one of those maddening days.
But just when Arsenal needed a hero, Alexis stepped up. The Chilean’s impact in his first season in the Premier League has been nothing short of sensational, with his quick feet often leaving opponents for dead.
This time though, he showed his aerial prowess, launching himself high to connect with Chambers’ deep cross from the right and direct it beyond Heaton.
The relief around the ground was tangible, and moments later they had another as Burnley failed to deal with a corner, Welbeck’s fierce shot was blocked on the line and Chambers pounced for his first senior goal.
Walcott then stepped of the bench to a huge roar - and was straightaway at the heart of the action. The England international may not have played for close to 10 months, but he was back with a bang.
He firstly forced Heaton into a good stop at his near post, then set up fellow substitute Lukas Podolski to crash a fierce volley against the post.
It was quite a way to reintroduce himself to the Arsenal faithful, who left Emirates Stadium wearing broad smiles after Alexis added a third in injury time when he latched on to Gibbs’ cross to prod past Heaton.
Referee: Craig Pawson
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