This time last year Arsenal were being heavily linked with Gonzalo Higuain, with several media outlets as well as numerous Higuain family members confirming a deal was imminent. Yet despite these assertions, ultimately the transfer never materialised resulting in great disappointment. The Gunners of course did go on to sign a world class player in Mesut Ozil but no one could have blamed the Arsenal faithful for feeling slightly sceptical when rumours linking Alexis Sanchez to the Emirates recently surfaced.
Last night, however, just before the launch of the new Puma kits, Arsenal confirmed the signing of the Chilean international in a clear statement of intent. This is now a club that is moving forward, is focused and has the ability to attract the World’s best players. Ozil’s move was the first building block, a sign the years of austerity were over and that club was ready to mount a serious challenge for the game’s biggest honours. Arsenal were no longer a selling club and having now ended their long trophy draught with the FA Cup win in May, the Gunners have also restored a winning mentality at the Emirates. The arrival of Sanchez is the latest piece of the puzzle.
The former Barcelona man has all the attributes to become a roaring success in the Premier League. Strong, agile, skilful and fast, Sanchez adds a whole new dimension to the Arsenal attack. Although it will of course take time for the Chilean to settle into life at the Emirates, Sanchez will not be easily bullied. He has great strength and is not overwhelmed when the game turns physical. Renowned for scoring wonder goals from seemingly impossible angles, Sanchez also has the ability to change the course of a match in the blink of an eye.
His searing pace is also a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad as with Walcott out injured for the latter half of last season, the Gunners lacked any pace in their forward line which allowed the opposition to press high up the pitch, a key feature of those humbling defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea. The presence of Sanchez will force defences to sit deeper, providing more space and time for the Arsenal midfield to pick out passes. Ozil will therefore benefit greatly from this new acquisition as Sanchez specialises in finding space and making clever, well-timed runs in behind the opposition defence, which will provide the German assist master with plenty of options.
Sanchez was deployed mainly on the right flank by Barcelona, but he can also play through the middle, offering an alternative to Olivier Giroud, who struggled to maintain his fine form as last season wore on. The Frenchman must also be pleased with the new arrival as Giroud specialises in providing deft little flicks for those willing to run beyond him. The prospect of Wenger fielding a front three of Walcott, Giroud and Sanchez, with Ozil just behind them and Ramsey a little deeper, not only excites the Arsenal faithful but must also strike fear into every Premier League defence.
The Gunners cannot rest on their laurels however. Wenger and Gazidis have done a fantastic job in securing such a quality signing as early as possible, but must now also address other areas of the squad. A backup goalkeeper, right back and holding midfielder should now be top priorities, while another defender and striker could also be required. According to reports Mathieu Debuchy is all set to join, while Athletico Madrid’s young right back Javier Manquillo is also said to be in advanced talks over a loan move. A deal for Loic Reny however, appears to have stalled due to the Frenchman’s wage demands. Rumours have also surfaced linking Sami Khedira with a move, which if true would cause Arsenal fans to pinch themselves continuously to make sure they weren’t just having a beautiful dream.
One thing is for sure, Arsenal now mean business.