Today is a landmark day for Arsenal Football Club, as Arsene Wenger has won a worldwide battle for a dream transfer target, getting Alexis Sanchez in a compelling move from Barcelona. Alexis Sanchez was a true star at the World Cup for Chile this summer, and coming off of a very successful third season at Barcelona, one in which he scored 19 league goals along with 10 assists, he was a valuable commodity. Seen by new Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as surplus to requirements, Sanchez had his pick of places to go, among them Liverpool and Juventus. Once other teams got involved, many Arsenal fans feared his transfer story would go the way of Gonzalo Higuain’s. But in recent days, it became clear that this time was different. And this afternoon, Arsenal confirmed that Sanchez is a Gunner.
As many people saw at the World Cup, Sanchez is a useful player indeed. He isn’t your typical striker, but his movement and pace are smart enough that he can more than hold his own up top when called upon. However, his best positions or Arsenal will likely be on the left or right side of attack. He has the speed to get in behind the full-backs, and having successfully played a similar role for Barcelona, he has learned how to make the diagonal runs in between the defenders. He has a rocket of a shot, but has also scored a lot of clever goals with finessed efforts and chips.
The player who will benefit most from this transfer is Mesut Özil. With Real Madrid, the German superstar was at his best alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and other pacey players who could continuously make intelligent runs from the flanks. Özil could sit deeper, finding the perfect ball to thread in between the defenders. With Theo Walcott out for much of the year, Arsenal’s record signing had nobody to play those type of balls to, and had a tougher time creating chances. Olivier Giroud certainly wasn’t making those runs, and neither were Lukas Podolski or Santi Cazorla from the left. But now Sanchez will be there to run in behind, and with Walcott soon returning to fitness, defenders will be downright scared of leaving any space behind them. Sanchez is an ideal signing to bring out the best in Özil.
The other area that Sanchez can help tactically is that he’ll be another head to aim at in the box when Arsenal look to cross. Sanchez has showcased his ability to get to the back post in recent years, which is something Arsenal have been without. And with more bodies to cover in the box, Aaron Ramsey might find more space to make his late runs forward. Podolski and Cazorla certainly possess great abilities in the attacking third, but neither player was eager to get in behind. As such, the midfield got overcrowded at times, with no options beside Giroud at which to aim crosses. Sanchez’s abilities to be both the creative force in midfield and the hard-working finisher should make Arsenal’s attack significantly less predictable.
Sanchez’s arrival may not be the only signing up front this summer, but his versatility could allow Wenger to focus the rest of his transfer energy on other areas. Behind Olivier Giroud, Arsenal now can play Sanchez, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell in addition to Walcott and Podolski on occasion. And with an abundance of attacking midfield talent, Arsenal possess an incredible front 5. The lineup of Giroud, Sanchez, Walcott, Özil and Ramsey should scare everyone. That Cazorla, Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere won’t all be good enough to even make the bench if everyone’s healthy shows that Arsenal’s depth in this area is tremendous. Everyone will need to work harder for places in the side, and that can’t be a bad thing.
There are still moves to be made to shore up the defense, with the potential Mathieu Debuchy arrival looking likely, but today’s signing of Alexis Sanchez sends a message to the rest of the Premiership that Arsenal will be a force in the attacking third this year. And as none of Sanchez, Özil, Walcott or Ramsey are older than 25, this will be a potent side for years to come. I can not believe Arsenal got this deal done so quickly, and with a nearly full preseason to get acquainted with his teammates, Sanchez should be firing in no time. This is a great day to be a Gooner.