EPL : Sanchez keeps Arsenal in top four hunt , Mancity on brink of CL spot
Alexis Sanchez kept alive Arsenal’s fading hopes of qualifying for the Champions League as the Chilean broke Sunderland’s stubborn resistance to seal a crucial 2-0 win on Tuesday.
Arsene Wenger’s side were struggling to see off relegated Sunderland until Sanchez came to the rescue with two goals deep into the second half at the Emirates Stadium.
Despite refusing to sign a new contract, Sanchez remains the only Arsenal player consistently performing at a world-class standard and the former Barcelona forward, playing despite a recent thigh injury, is the sole reason they still have a faint chance of a top-four finish.
In reality, the fifth-placed Gunners need a miracle to qualify for the Champions League for a 20th successive season.
Arsenal’s sixth win in their last seven games moved them within one point of fourth-placed Liverpool, but there was bad news from Eastlands where Manchester City beat West Bromwich Albion to retain their three-point lead over Wenger’s team.
Arsenal host Everton on Sunday, while Liverpool entertain relegated Middlesbrough and third-placed City travel to Watford.
If Liverpool win and City avoid defeat, Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League for the first time in two decades, even if they end the season with a victory.
Wenger’s approval ratings are at an all-time low with Arsenal’s disenchanted supporters and it will be fascinating to see if he decides to stay if the top four proves beyond reach.
Wenger had urged fans not to boycott the Sunderland fixture in their latest protest against the Gunners boss, but when the Frenchman emerged from the tunnel before kick-off he was greeted with swathes of empty red seats around the Emirates.
City edged ever closer to a guaranteed place in next season’s Champions League after an entertaining 3-1 win over West Bromwich at the Etihad Stadium.
Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure scored the goals for Pep Guardiola’s side and barring a freak combination of results on the final day of the league season, City will finish in the top four.
City will go into Sunday’s trip to Watford in third place, two points above Liverpool and three clear of Arsenal, knowing victory will rubber-stamp direct qualification for the Champions League group phase.
But the evening was as much about popular City defender Pablo Zabaleta, who played out the final minutes of his nine-year stay with the club after coming on as a second-half substitute.
When City captain Vincent Kompany was replaced after 77 minutes and handed Zabaleta his captain’s armband, the Argentinian appeared to be fighting back tears.