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English Premiership

Lethal Sanchez trains guns at Stoke

SANCHEZ-FLIESLONDON, December 5- Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain says Alexis Sanchez’s fierce competitive streak has transformed the mentality of the Arsenal squad.

Arsene Wenger’s side travel to face Stoke on Saturday seeking a fourth successive win after Sanchez continued his superb form with the late strike that secured a 1-0 victory over Southampton in midweek.

The Chile international’s goal was his eighth in his last eight appearances and ensured the north London club did not lose any more ground on Premier League leaders Chelsea, who they trail by 13 points.

Sanchez has wasted little time making his mark following his £30 million ($47 million) arrival from Barcelona during the last transfer window and Oxlade-Chamberlain claims his tenacity and will to win has been felt throughout the squad.

“There is no rest for him. On recovery days he wants to be playing and he is not happy if he is not allowed to play the game at the end of training,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said.

“He has brought that winning mentality to the side and it definitely rubs off on a lot of players.

“It has been an eye-opener for me. To make it to the top and to be able perform like he does week in, week out, you have got to be an absolute winner and you never want to lose at all.

“He is not happy when he does not score. If I had scored as many goals as he has at this stage, I would be over the moon.

“He has been brilliant for us and a breath of fresh air, so hopefully he can stay in the form that he is in and we can help him out to keep producing goals like he has been.”

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– Title bid under threat –

The gap between sixth-placed Arsenal and the top of the table means the Gunners hopes of being crowned champions for the first time in 11 years are extremely slim.

And England international Oxlade-Chamberlain admits the target now is to build on the progress of the last two weeks before turning their sights on the leaders.

“I am not concentrating too much on Chelsea. You never know, they might drop off,” Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“If they do, we need to make sure we are back in, following them closely with getting results and trying to climb up the table.”

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and right-back Mathieu Debuchy could be back in contention after injury lay-offs, but Theo Walcott is unlikely to return to the squad, while Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil are long-term absentees.

Meanwhile, Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross has warned Arsenal to expect their usual hostile reception from City fans.

There has been an edge to matches between the pair ever since the controversial challenge by Shawcross which left Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey with a broken leg in 2010.

Mark Hughes’ team are bidding to bounce back from three losses on the spin – but they have won four and drawn two of their seven home games against the Gunners since arriving in the Premier League in 2008.

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“The pressure is building for us to get some points, but it’s Arsenal at home and our record is very good against them at the Brit,” Shawcross said.

“The fans dislike Arsenal so it’s going to be a tasty game. Hopefully the atmosphere will be buzzing and we can get three points.

“If we play like we did at Manchester United (in the 2-1 defeat in midweek) or even better we can beat Arsenal.

“We’ve played well against the big teams and hopefully we can make the Britannia a fortress again.”

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