With the completion of his move to Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez is officially the first in the door this summer at the Emirates. After a brilliant campaign with Chile this summer, which fell on the back of an even more brilliant season at Barcelona, Sanchez felt his future lay elsewhere. Not guaranteed to start for the Spanish giants, the Chilean talisman has chosen London as his next home, to the delight of every Arsenal fan the world over – but is it enough?
To be honest, Sanchez is a fantastic player. There’s no need for me to go into his skill-set (you’ve all seen him this summer), but in case you need to be brushed up on the numbers from his time at Barca and how they compare to his new teammates, let me just begin there;
How Sanchez compares to Arsenal’s attacking options last season (league stats only)
Alexis Sanchez: 19 goals, 10 assists, 59% shot accuracy, 47 chances created
Mesut Ozil: 5 goals, 9 assists, 75% shot accuracy, 76 chance created
Santi Cazorla: 4 goals, 8 assists, 60% shot accuracy, 66 chances created
Lukas Podolski: 8 goals, 2 assists, 63% shot accuracy, 8 chances created
Theo Walcott: 5 goals, 4 assists, 59% shot accuracy, 23 chances created
Given the numbers above, of which you really almost cannot take Theo Walcott into consideration due to his fitness issues, Sanchez comes into the Arsenal team as arguably their best attacking option come their opening league fixture in August. Not only would he have lead the Gunners in assists this season had he been in the side, but he would have also lead the team in goals (his 19 in the league best Olivier Giroud’s 16).
When you take into brief consideration (yes we could delve further into this further) his playing style as well, Sanchez is the perfect fit for Arsenal;
Player characteristics of Alexis Sanchez via Whoscored.com
Strengths: Passing, Key passes, Long shots
Style of play: Plays layoffs, one-two’s and short passes
Given the style of play Sanchez brings into the discussion, there is no doubt that not only will he be a success, but that he offers additional tactical flexibility that Arsenal so desperately needs. Sanchez can play in all three attacking midfield positions as well as striker, options that could allow the deployment of both Sanchez and Walcott on either side of Ozil, giving the German two excellent players who are willing to get forward to get a sniff at goal – it’s all looking very good for Arsenal right now, but is this the signing they truly NEED?
There is no question that additional attacking options and quality will not go a very long way for the Gunners, but their biggest weakness can be found at the center of the park, and that is where Arsenal must truly spend big. With rumors growing by the hour that Arsenal are closer and closer to sealing a deal to bring Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira to the Emirates, should that move materialize and come to fruition, that is where Arsenal’s upcoming season will be defined.
Despite spending months on the treatment table for a a ruptured cruciate ligament, Khedira returned to training less than a month before the World Cup this summer and still kept his place in Germany’s midfield trio alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kross, which is a massive testament to not only his ability as a footballer, but his vital importance to Germany. Much like Sanchez, Khedira would be a perfect fit for the Gunners, but it’s the type of player he is that makes his potential acquisition so massive for the club.
Not since the days of Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and then Gilberto Silva have Arsenal truly had an imposing presence in the midfield – a fact of life for the club that is in direct correlation with their trophy drought that ended last may with their FA cup win over Hull City. For all their slick passing and beautiful attacking football, Arsenal have been lacking real steel, grit and presence in the midfield that can keep them on par with Chelsea, Manchester City and maybe even Liverpool and Manchester United given the way the transfer window has shaken out this far. In football, and especially in the Premier League, the midfield is where matches are won and lost.
With Arsenal’s current midfield options standing at Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Flamini, Khedira is a world class addition to the center of the park for the Gunners that gives them the ability to win the midfield battle against their rivals, which has long been there achilles heel. But perhaps the best part of Khedira, is the fact that he is not a defensive midfielder – the German is better used as a box-to-box midfielder, much like Patrick Vieira in his prime playing days the club, fighting to gain possession, making a forward pass to start the break and then busting up the pitch to get to the top of the box to support the attack but also having the tactical wherewithal to track back and defend and be physical when called upon. There is no doubting the ability of Ramsey and Wilshere, but they are not able to boss the center of the park and it is there where Arsenal are overrun by their rivals.
One final factor that makes Khedira such a prime target for the club, is his long term friendship and understanding on the pitch with Mesut Ozil. Having been together for the national team for years as well as a number of years together at Real Madrid, the possibility of deploying Khedira behind Ozil to give the German playmaker added support that comes standard with pre-made cohesion on the pitch would be a massive boost to the club.
The signing of Sanchez is certainly a step in the right direction for a club that is looking to build on it’s FA Cup success and become a serious title contender yet again, but whether it is Khedira who comes in, or Morgan Schneiderlin, Lars Bender or any other holding midfield player that the club is interested in, the only way Arsenal will truly be in the title race discussion is if they look at the bigger issues in the over all picture, rather than making another high profile signing to gloss over the issues that have been right under their noses all along.