Alexis Sanchez can provide Arsenal the final push towards league title

By Dattaraj Thaly | Last Updated: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 18:23
 
Dattaraj Thaly
Different Take
 

For the first time in many years, majority of Arsenal fans seem to be delighted with the business their club has done during the summer. It would be unfair to assume they are already done, especially since Arsene Wenger himself has said the possibility of doing more business exists.

Since 2006, some of their best players including club captains at the time have opted to pursue their careers away from North London, mainly to win trophies. Worryingly, some of them even questioned the ambition of Wenger and the club.

Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Alexander Hleb, Cesc Fábregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin Van Persie and Alex Song are some of the players who left the club between 2006 and 2012.

Saying every club in the world would miss that lot is stating the obvious. But losing players that have collectively represented them over two thousand times has definitely had the biggest detrimental effect on Arsenal. As a result, they have had to undergo more rebuilding phases than any of their top competitors unlike Manchester United and Chelsea who have had a core group of players retained at the club for a considerable period of time.

Manchester United have only let go of two key players – Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy during that same period. Other players that left the club were either released or had retired. Chelsea, on the other hand, have always been busy in the transfer market and have replenished their squad whenever they had to sell a key player.

Last summer, the Gunners pulled off a coup of sorts by signing Mesut Ozil for a club record fee. The outcome of integrating a player of Ozil’s caliber was evident right from start of the season as Arsenal led the league table for little more than half of the season.

Despite glaring weaknesses in the striking department, Wenger opted to repose his faith in Olivier Giroud instead of injecting his squad with firepower in the January transfer window. The manager ignored a growing clamour for new faces, as a result, their challenge for the league title lost steam in the run up to the run-in.

From the perspective of Arsenal fans, their club`s approach to the 2014-15 season seems to be refreshing. The Frenchman has added the mercurial Alexis Sanchez to his squad along with a solid right back in Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, who is a young prospect. More importantly, none of their key players have left.

The right-back slot vacated by Bacary Sagna has been replaced and Barcelona-bound Thomas Vermaelen was not exactly part of Wenger`s core group of players last season with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker being the first choice center-back pairing at the club.

During his final season at Real Madrid, Mesut Ozil had 13 assists, which was the most in La Liga for that season. In his first year at Arsenal, the World Cup winner notched up 9 assists, which was the highest in his team.

The greatest strengths in Ozil’s game are his key passes and through balls. At Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo provided a clinical finishing touch to his key skills. Last season, Giroud despite scoring 16 goals, was not quite able to offer the ideal foil for the German.

During his time at Camp Nou, Alexis Sanchez scored 47 goals and accumulated 34 assists in 141 appearances despite being troubled by injuries and more importantly, with Lionel Messi as the main striker. In 2013-14, the Chile striker went pass the keeper on 19 occasions.

Alexis Sanchez offers tremendous speed up top for Arsenal, which Giroud clearly lacks. He is the complete package – he can cut inside, play short passes, lay the ball off and pose a threat from direct free kicks as well as long shots. All of these qualities make him an ideal striker that could help Ozil in taking his game to the next level.

The on-field dynamic between Ozil and Sanchez could have a major say in the brand of football that will be exhibited by Arsenal on the pitch every week. At least on paper, they appear to be ideally suited. And with a battery of midfielders like Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, there is no reason why Arsenal can’t score goals galore.

Sanchez isn’t the finished article just yet and he has plenty to prove. But there is no denying, his direct running at defenders combined with upper body strength and a physical approach will add a new dimension to Arsenal’s attack. More importantly, he is more suited to this current team than Olivier Giroud.

Not many may remember, but Alexis Sachez had won FIFA’s most promising young player of year award in 2011, beating Neymar and Gareth Bale. Three years later, both Neymar and Bale have gone on to become superstars of world football, while Sanchez is still considered a supremely gifted footballer waiting to explode.

In a welcome departure from his previous self, Arsene Wenger has genuinely bolstered his squad for the first time in several years. The usually conservative Frenchman’s new flamboyant avatar has given the club a realistic chance to win the Premier League trophy and compete in the Champions League in 2014-15.

He still needs to solve a couple of problems – Arsenal needs a central defensive midfielder and a cover for their center backs. With September 1 still a few days away, Wenger still has the opportunity address these issues. But as many believe, the signing of Alexis Sanchez may prove to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Arsenal.



First Published: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 18:16

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