Neil Humphreys: Arsenal have a new weapon - speed
(Per Mertesacker 20, Alexis Sanchez 82)
HULL CITY 0
Liverpool have it on one flank, Manchester City have it in small pockets and Manchester United don't really have it at all.
But the Gunners suddenly have it all over their forward line.
Arsene Wenger's men are a bright, blurred vision of blistering pace.
For the first time this season, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez shared the same pitch and issued a captivating statement of attacking intent.
Back in May, Hull faced Arsenal in the FA Cup final and were unlucky to lose.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), they were lucky to lose only 2-0.
In Sanchez, the Gunners have a forward with no cruise control. He's Jeremy Clarkson in an Arsenal jersey. He performs only in top gear.
In Walcott, the Gunners have a forward with a point to prove and pace to burn. He's playing catch-up. He won't take long.
Considering he was stretchered off against Tottenham a year ago, Walcott was understandably rusty, but no less invigorated by the whirlwind rushing past him.
The Emirates Stadium witnessed a Chile backdraft, a fiery, explosive, combustible force. Like an onrushing flame, Sanchez doesn't just make opponents lose face. He rips them off, leaving victims agonisingly exposed.
With every sudden inrush of oxygen, he surges again. The wintry conditions have neither dampened his spirits nor slowed him down.
Wenger has long been the immovable object at Arsenal, but he is bowing to an unstoppable force.
He can't drop Sanchez.
The Gunners manager promised to rest the Chilean during the intense Christmas period, but the striker played every match. He's already chalked up nearly 2,400 minutes of playing time for Arsenal and still exudes the manic energy of a teenager on a first date.
The 26-year-old has missed just one Premier League game and one Champions League fixture. But his confidence seems to provide a fresh injection of attacking impetus in every game.
DROP ME IF YOU DARE
He defies his own manager, sending out a clear, unequivocal message - drop me if you dare.
Apart from scoring one and setting up the other against Hull, Sanchez encouraged others to find their accelerator.
Walcott offered enough glimpses to suggest the second half of Arsenal's season is set for the same old narrative; that is, Wenger's annual metamorphosis from Darth Vader to Anakin Skywalker.
Before Christmas, he was the Dark Lord of the Silly Outdated Managers. Now there's a hint of him bringing balance to Arsenal's attacking force.
There is new hope around the Emirates.
Lukas Podolski's exit has promoted Costa Rica's World Cup star Joel Campbell and, suddenly, an Arsenal line-up of Sanchez, Walcott and Campbell is uniquely overwhelmed with speed.
Liverpool are heavily reliant upon Raheem Sterling, City turn to Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa takes on sprinting duties at Chelsea and Louis van Gaal sheepishly admits that pace remains a problem at Old Trafford.
But, after several months of plodding performances, the Gunners find themselves top-heavy with raw accelerators.
It's probably no coincidence that Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky have found their form just as their forward line finds its fifth gear.
A tweaked backline and less jittery performances from Calum Chambers and Per Mertesacker were enough to keep out Hull as Arsenal continue to walk a tightrope between brilliant going forward and brittle at the back.
Wenger may still take a peek into the transfer window to improve defensive stability.
And yet, there were glimmers of hope with every flash of inspiration from Sanchez. He's shining a light on what had been a dull, dispiriting season.
His irrepressible enthusiasm must excite and alarm Wenger in equal measure. Like Brendan Rodgers with Luis Suarez last season, the Frenchman faces a manager's dream and nightmare wrapped around a riddle in one enigmatic performer.
Does he bench his raging bull or take the risk?
If Sanchez is rested, Arsenal's weekend might be ruined. If Sanchez gets injured, Arsenal's entire season suffers.
But the potentially long-term pairing of the Duracell Bunny and the returning Roadrunner should stop Wenger from playing a cartoon villain. There's no pressing need to meddle with their speed.
If Sanchez and Walcott truly take off, they'll leave pursuers panting in their slipstream.
And Hull's hopeless defenders won't be the last to feel like Wile E. Coyote.
I hope he can keep his energy up for the rest of the season. He recovers very quickly and we’ll see. From our tests, he doesn’t look like he has any fatigue problem at the moment.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Alexis Sanchez
Theo lacks a bit of competition, but that will come. What he has done (against Hull) after being out for a year is quite positive.
- Wenger on Theo Walcott