Ever since Robin van Persie left Arsenal to join Manchester United back in 2012, most of the Arsenal fans have been crying out for Arsene Wenger to bring in a proven, ‘world class’ striker, whatever the transfer fee may be.
The summer transfer window would knock on Arsenal’s door each year, and bring the guarantee of several crazy, outrageous links to big name strikers all across Europe. For the past few years, Karim Benzema happens to be the most regularly linked player, while Gonzalo Higuain, and most famously, Luis Suarez, were rumoured to have almost made a move to the Emirates.
Ultimately, none of those rumours ever saw the daylight, and while Wenger did succeed to rope in Lucas Perez this summer, frustration has been climbing upwards year after year at the potential lack of a world class No 9.
But this season the scenario has changed a bit, at least for the time being. Wenger has found a perfect solution without needing to fork out the cash on one of the very limited number of top strikers available in the market.
His masterplan to move Alexis Sanchez to the position of Arsenal’s lone striker has proved to be a cameo. While the Chilean’s inevitable success isn’t that much of a shock considering the abundance of attacking ability he brings in, there were still some doubts whether the new role would be able to fully unleash the demon inside the attacker.
But Wenger continued with Sanchez being his main attacking source, and everyone can see that it has more than paid off. His amazing 14-minute hat-trick in the second half against West Ham symbolised how influential he can be, and it eventually took him level with Diego Costa as Premier League’s top scorer this season.
Alexis Sanchez Season In Numbers. pic.twitter.com/rRRG9JV1ff
— BlameFootball (@blameFootball) December 5, 2016
Sanchez has now scored 11 goals in just 13 Premier League starts for Arsenal this term – a total which is up there with the top scorers around Europe. Now the question is: Had Wenger decided to spend more than £50m on the likes of Benzema or Higuain, would they have come up a more impressive record?
And, even though you can continue the argument, it’s unlikely that either of Benzema or Higuain would have the exceptional telepathic understanding which Sanchez has built up with Mesut Ozil over the last three years. The linkup between the Chilean-German combination has been extraordinary since their first game together at the Emirates, but ever since Sanchez emerged as the focal point of attack, it looks to have reached another level, and an unbelievable one.
It was quite evident during the West Ham demolition, as some sublime moves were crafted out with consummate ease by the duo. Sanchez’s off the ball movement and his dogged harrying of defenders every time he was surrounded looked a constant thorn in the Hammers backline.
Arsene Wenger perfectly summed up the former Barcelona attacker’s predatory nature after the match. “He has a killer instinct,” the Frenchman lauded.
Alexis Sanchez’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:
5 chances created
Alexis was certainly West Ham’s tormentor-in-chief. From the very first minute of the game, his indomitable energy and imagination were difficult to chase down. Watching on, the Arsenal fans must have thought it almost fortuitous that injury has once again forced Wenger to put aside Olivier Giroud.
The Gunners boss still sometimes feels tempted to start his compatriot as the spearhead of the Arsenal attack. But, when Alexis Sanchez runs through the middle, this inconsistent team looks significantly superior. His impressive adaptation to the centre has been the major positive of Arsenal’s season.
The Chile international does far more than just finding the back of the nets. Because of that hattrick against West Ham, it’s quite easy to overlook the fact that he was also responsible for Arsenal’s opener, smoothly chasing down a Francis Coquelin interception, humiliating Winston Reid and laying on a perfect tap-in for Mesut Ozil. Can you imagine, it was the Chilean’ sixth assist of the season—not content with just being Arsenal’s top scorer, he’s also their most effective creator. Yes, Arsenal fans can call him a one-man attacking whirlwind.
Crucially, Sanchez is enjoying his new role. Actually, he is a type of footballer who’s at his best when he’s happy, and Wenger is also well aware the his star man is relishing his reconfigured deployment on the field.
Of course, you have to consider that this beautiful display was against an opposition who are going through a fairly torrid time since their historical switch to the London Stadium, and have conceded a mammoth 29 goals.
But it cannot take away the quality of Sanchez and Arsenal’s attacking displays this season. Nor was it a one-match brilliance – Sanchez has been putting such a performance for weeks.
Some Gooners might still want to counter that there will be matches when Wenger cannot use the 27-year-old as a lone striker. A particularly physical game may create this kind of situation, but that’s why there is Olivier Giroud waiting on the bench.
The French forward has proved himself to be seen as one of the best impact substitutes in Premier League now, coming off the bench to hammer crucial goals on a number of occasions. With him, along with Lucas Perez and the soon-to-be returning Danny Welbeck, Arsenal for once seem to be in no need for a new striker signing.
Relishing as the top scorers in this Premier League season with 33 goals, it may be the last area Wenger is planning to strengthen.
Also, if Alexis Sanchez’s wage demands do accelerate along with the calibre of his consistent displays, Arsenal are in no position to complain—they simply have to pay whatever it takes to hold on to this firecracker forward.
With contract talks now stepping into a crucial stage, Arsenal must break the bank to stick with their superstar—with performances like this, he seems capable of leading them to glory this season. Yes, Alexis Sanchez is too good to lose.