Transfer Talk: Gunners Get Their Guy

Flying under the radar at Barcelona, will Sánchez's budding star shine for Arsenal?

Flying under the radar at Barcelona, will Sánchez’s budding star get a chance to shine for Arsenal?

 

Coming off of a very solid year for Barcelona in La Liga where Alexis Sánchez bagged 19 goals yet still managed to fly under the radar due to the presence of the newly-signed Neymar and some other fellow named Messi (?), Sánchez carried that run of good form into the 2014 World Cup. There he – somewhat surprisingly – led his home nation of Chile out of Group B (which also featured Netherlands and Spain) and into the Round of 16 where they narrowly missed knocking out home nation and favorites, Brazil.

His form at both the club and international level over the past few seasons put several clubs on notice of this budding star, and with Barcelona likely preparing to make room for Liverpool outcast Luis Suárez, Sánchez became an expendable asset for the Spanish giants.

Arsenal, unlike previous transfer windows in which they usually wait until late in the window before making moves, jumped at the opportunity to sign the 25-year old, and on July 10th, locked up the Chilean star to a long-term deal reportedly in the range of £30-£35m.

The move immediately enhances a Gunner attack that at times looked free-flowing, but other times was stagnant and too reliant on lone striker Olivier Giroud (especially when Aaron Ramsey went down). The team’s 68 Premier League goals was good enough for fourth in the league (a familiar sounding phrase to Arsenal supporters), but fell significantly short of the 102 and 101 goals scored by Manchester City and Liverpool, who finished first and second in the table respectively.

The amount of goals scored by Manchester City and Liverpool have perhaps signaled a change in how titles are won (though Chelsea finished third in the table and only scored 71), as teams are now, more than ever, often needing goals by the truckload to compete with the Premier League elites.

Arsene Wegner, despite his critics, is one of the top managers in the league and knows he needs to adapt or die. Arsenal’s attack must increase in potency, and he’s gone out and secured the services of an exciting, young, proven goal-scoring talent in Sánchez to aid said attack.

But where does he fit into Arsenal’s attacking front? And, perhaps more importantly, what will this mean for his fantasy prospects?

As a natural winger, though it is possible we see him in a center forward role from time to time, it’s unklikely Sánchez is going to displace Giroud as the lone striker in Wegner’s typical 4-2-3-1 formation. Instead, he should feature predominantly out on the right or left flank in support of central attacking midfielder Mesut Özil.

This creates somewhat of a log jam in the wide areas, as Arsenal has a bevy of players they can deploy out on the wings. But, being that he’s the shiny  (and not to mention expensive) new toy, the arrival of Sánchez means his name will be on the team sheet most weeks, thus relegating other talented players to the bench.

Looking at some of last season’s La Liga numbers, let’s see how the ex-Barcelona man stacks up against a few of the names whom he might replace.

Sanchez's 2013/2014 La Liga numbers compared to those from a few current Arsenal wingers on a per-game basis

Sanchez’s 2013/2014 La Liga numbers compared to those from a few current Arsenal wingers on a per-game basis

 

As you can see, using Squawka.com’s handy dandy Player Comparison Matrix, that while Sánchez’s season totals were light years ahead most of these three current Arsenal wingers (19 goals, 10 assists, 47 chances created), even sorted on a per-game basis due to the amount of time Walcott, Podolski, and Oxlade-Chamberlain missed, the times he either scored a goal, provided an assist, or created a chance was still better than or right on par with par with that of his now teammates.

And, the fact that those players have often struggled with injuries (even outside of last season), likely only furthered Wegner’s desire to bring not only a better attacking quality of player to his side, but a more consistent one as Sánchez has made 63 appearances for a loaded Barcelona team over the past two seasons.

It would be unfair to compare players like Giroud, Özil, and Ramsey to the likes of Messi, Neymar, and Andres Iniesta, but the fact remains that Sánchez still finds himself in the company of top class players. This means that the goal-scoring opportunities (both for him and from him) should still abound despite the change in leagues.

There will likely be a period of adjustment as Sánchez acclimates to his new surroundings, but he’s proven that he can bag goals at the highest level, as well as be a provider and creator for others. Combined with the attacking core  that Arsenal already has in place, Sánchez has the physical tools as well as the surrounding one’s to be a fantasy star.

Season prediction: 14 goals, 8 assists

 

 

 

 

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