Unlike the doom and gloom that usually preceded the start of a season for the Gunners in the recent past, this summer seems a lot different. For the first time in what seems like a long-time, the club enters into a new season with some silverware in their trophy cabinet. The FA Cup victory means that the monkey is well and truly off their back.
Wenger’s plan is slowly coming to fruition and the recent acquisition of Alexis Sanchez only highlights how far they have come. Consistently linked with Liverpool, the Chilean winger is on his way to North London from Catalonia and will no doubt, feel at home considering the array of attacking talent at Arsenal’s disposal.
The 25-year-old winger had arguably his best season as at Barcelona last time around and is coming on the back of a wonderful World Cup in Chile, where he was his side’s best player. Young, quick and skillful, Sanchez will fit in seamlessly at Arsenal. His versatility also means that the Gunners have quite a talent on their hands at the moment.
Where will Alexis Sanchez play at Arsenal? He played on the right wing for most of the time, at Barcelona, will he continue the same at Arsenal? Will he get an automatic starting berth ahead of Walcott on the right or will be forced to play on the left, where the Gunners don’t have a natural wide player? Or will he play as a central playmaker, like he used to at Udinese?
These are the questions that both Arsene Wenger and supporters of Arsenal will be asking themselves. To make matters a little easier for both of them, let us look at where Sanchez is at his most effectual and how he can be efficiently used by the Gunners.
As the central attacking midfielder in the front three
Comparison between Sanchez and Arsenal’s attacking midfielders last season (League)
(All stats per whoscored)
If there is one position that Sanchez feels at home, then it is just behind the striker, in a free role. For Arsenal, Ramsey and Ozil did this at various parts of the season last time. The Chilean’s arrival is going to mean that Ramsey will have to occupy a deeper role and Ozil will have to play on the left, if Sanchez is to be accommodated as the central attacking midfielder.
While playing two players out of position to suit one player might seem like a silly thing to do, that might just be the best thing for all concerned. One of the main reasons why Ramsey was the more attacking player last time around was due to a lack of alternatives. With Ozil and Sanchez now in the squad, he is likely to revert to a more familiar box-to-box role in central midfield. Sanchez’s mobility means that both he and Ozil can interchange positions and confuse the opposition with their combination play.
This will also mean that Arsenal start with a triumvirate of Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil who can all interchange positions and make Arsenal’s attack highly fluid. It will also mean that for the first time in a long time, the Gunners will have the perfect balance of pace, trickery and incisive passing that can break open most defences.
As a right winger/ right-sided attacking midfielder
Comparison between Sanchez and Walcott in the League last season
(All stats per whoscored)
If there is one position that Sanchez found himself in most often at Barcelona last season, it was on the right flank. At Arsenal, he is set to go head-to-head with Theo Walcott, who was injured for much of last season, for a spot on the right wing. Given the fewer number of games played by Walcott, the stats from last season are a little skewed. But what is evident already is that Walcott has a better pass accuracy than Sanchez and also provides more key passes per game.
While Walcott is more of a finisher, Sanchez is a creator first and foremost. While his ability on the ball is undeniable, his off-the-ball movement is simply sublime. One of the reasons why he scores so many goals is his ability to time his runs to perfection. His intelligent movement and high energy style of play means that he is a nightmare for full backs. His ability to create chances for his teammates means that Giroud is likely to enjoy his presence and his little flicks will be easily picked up by the ever-willing Sanchez.
As a false number nine
If Arsene Wenger decides to not buy another centre forward and decides that he is happy with what he has, then the signing of Sanchez might prove crucial. Last season, Sanchez played a few games as a false number nine. If and when Giroud gets injured Wenger will have the luxury of playing a 4-2-3-1 or with no recognized centre forwards and Sanchez leading the line, with Ozil just behind him and Walcott and Podolski on either flank.
Sanchez has shown over the past few seasons, how clinical he can be in front of goal, something that might just help him take over from Giroud as the side’s centre forward or a false nine, depending on how you want to call it. However, this will work best as a temporary solution, when injuries or suspensions hit the side hard and not as a more permanent solution.
Irrespective of where he plays, the signing of Sanchez is a statement of intent from the Gunners. It is also one that proves that they are going for the League this time around and won’t just be content with finishing fourth yet again. The Chilean winger will certainly add another dimension to Arsenal’s already impressive attacking arsenal and make them more clinical in front of goal.