3 things we learned from Sunday's Premier League action

Alexis Sanchez continues to thrill at Arsenal while Morgan Schneiderlin is the jewel in Southampton’s crown.

Alexis Sanchez is the most electrifying Arsenal player since Thierry Henry

When the Gunners signed Danny Welbeck from Manchester United last August, much was written about how he could prove the natural heir to Thierry Henry.

Ever since the Frenchman left North London, the club has struggled to find a player capable of conjuring a game-winning moment of inspiration, a player capable of taking a game by the scruff of its neck. Sure, Theo Walcott has cropped up on a number of occasions with some stand-out performances but many have tried and consistently failed to deliver something reminiscent of Henry in his pomp. Welbeck is the latest to pale in comparison.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Stoke City - Emirates Stadium Adam Davy / EMPICS Sport Adam Davy / EMPICS Sport / EMPICS Sport

But it seems the team could finally have the definitive, electrifying attacking presence in the final third that they’ve craved for so long.

In 19 league appearances, Alexis Sanchez has scored 12 goals and he’s well on his way to becoming the first Arsenal player to net 20+ in the top-flight since Robin van Persie in 2012.

But there was a period between 2002 and 2006 when Henry was crowned the league’s most prolific goalscorer on four different occasions. Twice during that time Arsenal were crowned champions.

Owing to deficiencies elsewhere in the team, it’s hard to see the Chilean single-handedly propelling Arsenal to success but should he maintain his terrific run of goal-getting, the Gunners may just surprise a few people.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Stoke City - Emirates Stadium Adam Davy / EMPICS Sport Adam Davy / EMPICS Sport / EMPICS Sport

With Diego Costa at Chelsea and Sergio Aguero at Manchester City both working their magic this season, there’s a genuine possibility that Sanchez’s magic could secure Arsenal third spot in the league for the first time since Van Persie did something similar three years ago.

It’s optimistic to think Manchester United will sign Radamel Falcao to a permanent deal

Three minutes after Southampton took the lead at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal looked to his bench and instructed his final substitute to get stripped. Chasing a goal, they needed someone with an eye for poaching a goal, a player who’s a handful in the area. And then on came Marouane Fellaini.

The Belgian was the best available to Van Gaal. He had decided to drop Radamel Falcao from his squad and named youngster James Wilson on the bench instead of the internationally-renowned Colombian. But when he required a goal-threat, it wasn’t the 19 year-old that was introduced but the lanky, fuzzy-haired figure of Fellaini. It said much about what Falcao’s long-term future at the club looks like.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Newastle United - Old Trafford Richard Sellers / EMPICS Sport Richard Sellers / EMPICS Sport / EMPICS Sport

Signed on an initial loan deal, the striker’s injury problems unsurprisingly appear to be an issue. But his availability was something United couldn’t ignore. Upon capturing the 28 year-old Van Gaal was quoted as saying:

He is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the game. His appearance-to-goal ratio speaks for itself and, when a player of this calibre becomes available, it is an opportunity not to be missed.”

But now, Falcao is flitting in and out of the United team. He’s scored three times in 13 appearances – a rate not as prolific as predicted. But of greater concern to United and Van Gaal is that from those 13 appearances, Falcao has completed 90 minutes on just two occasions. Six times, he’s been replaced before the 73rd minute. On four occasions, he’s been replaced with 65 minutes or less played.

That’s immensely worrying and being dropped from today’s matchday squad is just another sign that his stay in Manchester won’t be a long one.

Morgan Schneiderlin continues to be the jewel in Southampton’s glistening crown

Cast your minds back to the start of the season. There was chaos at Southampton. All of the team’s best players were leaving. Luke Shaw went to Manchester United while Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all moved to Liverpool. There was speculation linking Tottenham with Jay Rodriguez and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, just like everyone else, wondered what was happening.

Britain Soccer Premier League Morgan Schneiderlin gets close to Angel di Maria during Southampton's terrific 1-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

He wanted to move too but the club refused to grant him a transfer. He vented his frustrations on his Twitter page but Southampton stood firm. They told him he had to honour his contract but that, more importantly, he was key to the team’s future. Instead of disregarding his club’s wishes and stubbornly forcing a move (like so many others do), he accepted his position. He shook it off, returned to training and put his head down.

And he’s been an immensely crucial ingredient in his team’s remarkable success this season. An intelligent and purposeful player, he reads the game incredibly well. It’s no surprise that in 2013, Southampton’s first season back in the top-flight, he was crowned Stats Zone’s Central Midfielder of the Year based on some superb numbers, topping the rankings for both interceptions and tackles. He also chipped in with five goals.

But he’s changed his game in the last two seasons. He’s not just a combative force in the middle of the park but he’s begun to orchestrate more. He spends more time on the ball, has started to put up more passes in games and acts as more of a link between defence and attack, contributing far more long balls. His passing accuracy has improved significantly too and he’s already grabbed three goals from his 14 appearances so far this season, so he’s well on course to better his tally from previous campaigns.

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Southampton v Ipswich Town - St Mary's Chris Ison / PA Wire/Press Association Images Chris Ison / PA Wire/Press Association Images / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Of course, the longer he shines in a team that’s doing so well, the harder it will be for Southampton to keep him at St Mary’s. Last summer, the club’s top brass battled long and hard to make sure he didn’t depart but come the end of this season, it’s going to be even more difficult to make him stay.

Tadic keeps his shirt on just long enough to down Man United at Old Trafford

‘Southampton were lucky. They came for a draw’ – Van Gaal

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.