Arsenal have been linked with strikers from across Europe all summer, but it now seems that Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez is the Arsene Wenger’s number one target.
Liverpool also want Sanchez as a potential replacement for Luis Suarez, but he is believed to prefer a move to the Emirates. Arsenal are reported to have agreed personal terms with Sanchez, though they have yet to agree a transfer fee with Barcelona.
Last season, Arsenal looked likely to sign Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid, only to set their sights on Suarez instead. Their pursuit of Suarez was ultimately unsuccessful, but it’s clear why they wanted him.
Higuain is an out-and-out striker, great at scoring goals, but doesn’t really contribute much else. In contrast, Suarez is a whirlwind of movement, capable of deciding matches single-handedly with his individual ability, and he is able to play off a main forward, as he did so successfully for Liverpool last season.
Wenger has said he is looking for an attacking player who can play as a central striker, but also with Giroud as well, and Alexis Sanchez would be the perfect fit. He would bring many of Suarez’s best qualities but without the controversy that seems to follow the Uruguayan.
The 25-year-old scores and creates goals, is lightning quick, a sensational dribbler, and poses a constant threat to defences with his movement. Importantly, he can also play as a striker or on either flank as well.
Olivier Giroud is a good striker, who started last season very well, before the physical demands of being Arsenal’s only real option up front caught up with him towards the end of the campaign. The France striker played over 50 games for the club last season, and can’t be expected to do the same again. The need for an alternative (and possibly an upgrade if Arsenal want to win the league) is obvious.
Sanchez has shown how dangerous he can be in a central role at the World Cup, scoring two goals and making one assist in Chile’s four games. How does he compare to Giroud though?
Sanchez scored 19 goals – and assisted a further ten – in La Liga for Barcelona last season, at a rate of 0.72 per 90 minutes, which is more impressive than Giroud’s stats. Those numbers are made even more impressive as Sanchez plays out wide for Barcelona normally, as they have a certain Lionel Messi playing through the middle.
Giroud does so much good work closing down defenders and bringing others into play, but a striker is judged on goals, and his finishing can let him down.
He has said that he is still haunted by misses at crucial points in bothArsenal’s league games against Chelsea last season, and he takes more shots than Sanchez, but scores less goals. The Frenchman’s shot accuracy is also well below that of the Chilean, who had a better shot conversion rate than Messi in La Liga last year (31.3% to 25.2%).
Giroud does win significantly more headers, but that’s to be expected, he’s a very different type of forward. Giroud is excellent at winning aerial duels and holding the ball up, and that’s why signing someone like Sanchez makes so much sense for Arsenal; he offers something else for defenders to think about.
Arsenal were linked with the likes of Mario Mandzukic, and he’s a very good player, but there’s no point signing someone who plays in a similar style to Giroud.
At Arsenal, Giroud often comes deep, but Sanchez looks to run into space, and his pace makes it very difficult for defenders to track him. In games where Arsenal are struggling to find a breakthrough, his flair could make something happen.
He would also greatly improve Arsenal’s options on the wing, and an attacking trio of Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Theo Walcott is mouth-watering. That would still leave the likes of Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski as squad players, giving Arsenal enormous strength in depth.
Sanchez created 47 chances for Barcelona last season, and only Ozil and Cazorla created more for Arsenal. His time at Barcelona has demonstrated his ability to play in a fluid, attacking style, and he is well suited to Arsenal’s game. He has the intelligence and technical quality to partake in their intricate build-up play, but he also adds a direct threat that Arsenal sometimes need.
When Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were out with injury last year, Arsenal’s attack lacked pace and someone trying to run behind opposition defences. It’s no surprise that Mesut Ozil struggled in their absence – he was an exceptional playmaker with no one to play in. If Sanchez arrived at the Emirates, his runs would bring out the best of Ozil, creating space and giving the German vital passing options.
Barcelona are believed to be holding out for a fee of around £25 million for Sanchez, and that could represent a bargain for Arsenal. He would ease the burden on Olivier Giroud, offer a different threat in attack, and his ability to play across the forward line would greatly improve the squad as well. It’s about two years overdue, but Sanchez could be the outstanding forward they have been crying out for.
Related Teams: Arsenal