Alexis Sánchez ended his scoring drought in style with a hat-trick to help Arsenal come from behind at the King Power Stadium and complete a 5-2 win over high-flying Leicester City. In a thrilling end-to-end contest, the Chilean’s importance to Arsenal was laid bare as his first goals of the season saw Arsene Wenger’s side double their scoring tally through the first six Premier League fixtures in one afternoon.
And his quality was decisive in a contest that, despite the convincing scoreline, Arsenal did not have all their own way. Leicester were the Premier League’s only unbeaten side coming into the weekend and showed why with a fast start that culminated in Jamie Vardy scoring a superb opener.
The fixture’s crucial minute, though, came shortly after. At one end, England striker Vardy was denied a second goal by the crossbar, before Arsenal scythed their way through onto the counter attack to give Theo Walcott an equalizer. In an excitingly open game, with both sides going for the jugular at every opportunity, Arsenal had the greater quality to exploit the defensive holes. Sánchez, Arsenal’s top scorer last season, broke his duck for this campaign with a close-range finish in the 33rd minute. And he gave his side a degree of comfort shortly before the hour mark when heading in Mesut Ozil’s exquisite assist.
Leicester had come from two goals behind to secure positive results in their last two Premier League fixtures, but this time the task proved beyond them. While Vardy got his second with just over a minute remaining, by that stage Sánchez had displayed the new-found spring in his step with a superb strike from 25 yards to put the result beyond doubt and complete his treble. There was still time for more, as Olivier Giroud came off the bench to add an emphatic sheen to the scoreline with Arsenal's fifth in injury time.
The victory means Arsenal climb above Claudio Ranieri’s men and up into fourth place in the Premier League table. But equally as encouraging for Wenger will be the goals of Sánchez. Such a decisive performer for Arsenal last season, the former Barcelona forward has lacked his usual sharpness in the final third following his exertions helping Chile to the Copa America title this summer. But ahead of this fixture Wenger backed him to promptly return to his best, and will now hope this is just the start of him helping Arsenal up what had previously been a paltry Premier League goal tally.
Indeed, Leicester had scored twice as many goals in the league as Arsenal coming into Saturday’s contest. And they showed plenty of attacking vigor in the early stages to put the visitors on the back foot. Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been key to Leicester’s fine start, and both had chances to give the hosts an 11th-minute lead. After Vardy had struck a post with a scuffed shot, Mahrez failed to turn in the rebound.
The opening goal would arrive just two minutes later. Arsenal were caught upfield by a fine long pass from Daniel Drinkwater and Vardy cut in from the left before depositing the ball into the far corner of the net. If his header five minutes later had been an inch or two lower then the result on Saturday might have been a very different one.
Instead Arsenal took control by displaying their attacking quality on the counter attack. First Walcott slotted the ball home on his left foot following Santi Cazorla’s fine through ball and then, after Ozil’s delightful flick, Hector Bellerin’s low cross fell for Sánchez.
Leicester continued to provide the occasional flicker of danger at the other end, but Arsenal were now on top. And when Sánchez beat Kasper Schmeichel to head in Ozil’s chipped through ball the victory never looked in doubt. Still, Sánchez’s third goal was worth sticking around for and was just the type of strike that regularly sparked Arsenal through the first half of last season. Now just three points off the top of the Premier League, Arsenal must hope that their most decisive performer can inspire them to even greater feats this season.