Manchester City appear to be on the cusp of signing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. With a deal nearly being agreed in the summer, it seems very unlikely that the Sky Blues will let yet another opportunity go to waste.
Pep Guardiola’s style is intensive, and City are still locked with a tremendous number of fixtures at hand. Despite that, their existing attacking lineup is one that strikes fear into most teams, and their phenomenal league tally of 64 goals and counting so far this season is not one to ignore either.
As of such, adding Sanchez to their ranks will arguably cement their spot as the most talented and dangerous attacking team in the Premier League. With the likes of Aguero, Jesus, Sterling, Sane, De Bruyne, and Silva vying for regular spots, let’s have a look at how Guardiola’s lads can lineup if their targeted Chilean is secured.
3-5-2 With Sanchez As A Striker
The formation that Pep Guardiola has used sparingly so far this season, and only to accommodate both Aguero and Jesus at the same time in his frontline. However, if he is able to acquire the services of Sanchez, a no.9 role could be done great justice by the Chilean.
The best indication of this lies in his performances last season, where Wenger opted to deploy him around 70% of the time as a striker, and the result was arguably the best season that he has notched in his career. A majority of his 27 goals and 13 assists arrived that way.
What Guardiola and Manchester City fans could relish the most is the combined selfishness and technical genius that he would bring to the table.
Pep himself spoke about the player’s role in an interview with Sky Sports last season, by saying: “He played really good in Barcelona, but normally when you play with (Lionel) Messi, all the players beside him are not at his level.
“I think the position Arsenal are using him as a striker, in front, it is perfect for him. In Barcelona maybe I didn’t help him too much because he played wide. He can do that but he is better between the lines, closer to the goal.”
That very style can be mimicked at the Etihad, and it will make their already effective offensive tactics far more creative.
But the obvious downside of this formation is the selection dilemma, with Jesus and Aguero already fighting for the spot.
4-3-3 With Sanchez As a Winger
Despite being his natural position, his stints upfront at Arsenal have made it a statistically foregone conclusion that Alexis the winger can’t do as much as Alexis the striker can and has.
But this lineup is the one Guardiola is most fond of, as well as being the almost staple formation adopted by all major domestic and European winners over the years.
Deploying him on the left wing would allow the side to retain much of their existing flair, and will be a massive one up to their attacking intent. To add to that, his ability to create chances can be utilized the best in a fully fit squad.
Here too, Sane might have to kiss regular starts a sad goodbye, as it will be Sterling, with his electric 18 goals in all competitions already, who will bag the first option for the right wing. Further, the right spot would be an unlikely option to deploy the new arrival at, as shown in his few antics in the position last year.
But what is an important aspect of this formation is the effective link up of De Bruyne and Silva in the heart of the midfield. That one partnership, in particular, has been the secret behind much of City’s success so far this season, and is one that Guardiola might be inclined to continue if he can land the Gunner.
This last option will see the daunting absence of Sergio Aguero. Already looking unhappy on the bench owing to their wide arsenal of forward options, many experts believe that the Argentinian will soon depart the club.
If that proves to be the case, then signing Sanchez could be a masterstroke of foresight on part of Guardiola. By acquiring him for an arguably cheap amount, he can make the most out of the years left in the 29-year-old and shape a definitive striker.
In this lineup, Sane/Jesus and Sterling can be paired with Sanchez up front. The tactic will be akin to the one used by Guardiola in Manchester Derby, where Sterling was deployed as a false nine with Jesus and Sane to his sides as attackers. The result was for all to see, and could be a go-to tactic against big sides.
However, it is not a tactic that City can rely on consistently. Further, regardless of his brilliance, Sanchez cannot be the full replacement for Aguero, who at his fittest is the finest striker that the Premier League can offer, rivaled perhaps by only Harry Kane, and that is up for debate.
But one region where he is undoubtedly better than Aguero is in terms of pressing and tackling. Sanchez wins 0.54 tackles per 90 minutes, which is a marked furtherance to Aguero’s 0.27. In this regard, the Chilean will bring a renewed spirit to City’s game that Aguero, despite his erstwhile prowess, simply hasn’t.
With Jesus a more likely replacement, this is one of the few ways in which a City without Aguero can go ahead.
This is City’s best 11 with Sanchez:
The caliber and versatility of Sanchez could also ensure that Guardiola is able to mastermind another style of a lineup, or perhaps experiment with giving him a central attacking role akin to the rare instances at Arsenal.
All in all, if they do manage to see the transfer through in the winter window, then the Premier League is in for a treat, and potentially even an unprecedented season that could shatter further records.
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.