Finally. With Alexis Sanchez Leading the Line Arsenal Begin to Look like the Arsenal of Old
The are still lots of wrinkles to iron out but one major positive for Arsenal this season is Alexis Sanchez leading the line for Arsenal.
Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly though. For anyone who says Sanchez is a winger playing as a forward, you’re wrong. Going back to his Udinese days, and the few times he led the line at Barcelona, Sanchez is an attacker, not a forward or winger but capable of playing both quite efficiently. Some of his best work for Chile came when working in tandem with Eduardo Vargas, as a forward, even if Sanchez spent time dropping off out wide or back into midfield as you usually see when the national side plays. Got it? Good.
Now, back to Arsenal.
Folks will want to tip their hats to Arsene Wenger for making this adjustment but that’s a stretch. When Sanchez initially joined Arsenal, Wenger tried the Chilean up front and scrapped the experiment all too soon. He has featured there once or twice since but you would never think that this was the long-term plan for the Professor. Indeed, it was a surprise to see Sanchez start the Liverpool game at forward even with the other injuries and one expected Olivier Giroud to return once fully fit. He hasn’t reached that status yet so maybe that will occur but Wenger always has a preference for keeping a successful side together. So as long as Sanchez performs up top he’ll keep that spot. Does that mean he is now officially the No. 1 forward at Arsenal? That question will be answered as the season progresses.
Regardless, the improvement Sanchez brings to the Gunners in attack can be seen for all. There’s more fluidity, pace, creativity and improved pressing. Not to mention the improvement of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott. These are the types of targets Ozil had at Real Madrid, not in case of overall quality or skills, but in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria he had that same fluidity etc and not a stagnant, lumbering target man. His growing relationship with Sanchez is a prime example with that and his lovely volley against Swansea, his third assist from Sanchez, could be a sign of more to come the longer they play together.
Giroud has certainly done a job for the Gunners but I’ve always said he was a Plan B forward and not the type to be starting under Wenger. Nor is he one to be relied upon in big games as the manager put it, per the Guardian. He can come on to help change games or even start in certain circumstances to rest Sanchez or play him out wide. Giroud may very well be next in line as it seems new signing, Lucas Perez, is going the way of former No. 9 Park Chu-Young in terms of performances and impact at the Emirates. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but right now it seems that was Wenger panic-buying, again, to please the masses.
There’s a long season to go yet and Wenger will also have to be careful to not burn Sanchez out as he has the last two seasons, so maybe Perez will get some playing time. If Wenger also decides that Danny Welbeck starts up front upon his return with Sanchez back on the wing then I won’t mind that either. Sanchez is the best option up front but Welbeck provides similar attributes and need a good run of games to solidify himself as a starting striker. There’s still some growing pains to work through offensively, as the Burnley game showed, though that was partly down to Wenger’s lack of rotation, but the signs are promising. There’s still issues at the back and midfield as well so this is by no means a change that will win silverware of any kind.
With Sanchez up front Arsenal are a better attacking outfit and reminiscent of the days when Thierry Henry led the line. Hoppefully in time the same type of silverware will begin to roll in as well.