Why Arsenal Must Beat Liverpool to Barcelona and Chile Star Alexis Sanchez

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Why Arsenal Must Beat Liverpool to Barcelona and Chile Star Alexis Sanchez
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One of the players who has shined brightest at this World Cup is Alexis Sanchez.

Some of the typical suspects are coming up big in Brazil—Lionel Messi and Robin van Persie, for example—but Sanchez, who is already a well-known figure at Barcelona, has consistently shown bursts of brilliance.

The Chilean first made a major splash on the world football scene when Barcelona poached him from Udinese in 2011.

Clubs in Italy feared Sanchez because of his searing pace and uncommon ability to beat players with speed as well as provide a threat with the ball at his feet. He was a wild card, always able to pull off the spectacular and usually willing to try, even if it did not come off most of the time.

Consequently, Barcelona signed him in 2011. The Catalans were awash with wing talent at the time, but still felt compelled to shell out for Sanchez so that Messi could play in the middle.

The quick and dirty statistics seem to indicate that Sanchez has been much better for the Blaugrana than he was for Udinese. A record of 39 goals in 88 La Liga appearances is stellar, whereas his 20 goals in 95 games in Italy is quite good but not elite.

Of course, there are other complicating factors that at least force one to critically examine statistics accrued at Barca versus those recorded while at Udinese.

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Spanish teams generally play a more attacking brand of football than the tactically aware and defensively solid Italian ones. Sanchez's supporting cast at the Camp Nou is also infinitely better than what he used to work with. He is now being fed by Messi, Andres Iniesta and so on.

However, Sanchez has not quite been able to realize his vast potential.

Any player who can combine searing pace and deft touch is truly elite, but Sanchez has not quite hit the heights of peers like Thomas Mueller and Eden Hazard.

That is largely because he is a player who relies on freedom and attention—two things for which he is starved at Barcelona.

Sanchez has shined at this World Cup because Chile allow him to showcase his natural talent and make himself the focal point of the team's attack.

He is clearly their best player, and their playing style suits him. They're composed off the ball but a ruthless counterattacking side that are capable of sneaking up on you and nicking a goal at any moment.

Sanchez is more of a burner with exceptional skill than a technically gifted playmaker who happens to have a bit of pace. Barcelona want the latter, but Chile want—and receive—the former.

Now he can dribble past people and cause mayhem in just the way he wants to.

And what better sort of player to add to Arsenal's attack?

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Everyone knows about the club's need for an additional striker. But once that role is filled, Arsene Wenger would be wise to find some cover for the wings, as Theo Walcott is the only genuine option he has.

We saw that Arsenal lacked pace and a sort of spontaneity and threatening nature when Walcott got injured, and the resulting predicability was a major reason why the Gunners lost the Premier League title last season.

Wenger will have to know how to coach Sanchez if he comes in. Arsenal's playing style is more like Barcelona's than Udinese's, but it is not nearly as restrictive as the Blaugrana's.

Unsurprisingly, as this is silly season, Sanchez's outstanding performances for his country have bred transfer rumors from big newspapers.

The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel claim that both Arsenal and Manchester United are seriously interested in him, but the former have the advantage due to the fact that the Red Devils will not be playing Champions League football next season.

According to the report, Wenger has scouted Sanchez since 2009, which would not be overly surprising if true given how calculated he is about transfers.

However, a wrench has now been thrown into the mix, as Liverpool legend Phil Thompson told Newstalk (h/t Bleacher Report's Nick Akerman) that the Reds, who qualified for the Champions League for the first time in several years this past season, have all but signed Sanchez already.

Before you begin prematurely biting your nails in anxiety, remember that the validity of Thompson's remarks is specious at best.

His information comes from other people at newspapers who apparently have sources connected to Liverpool. He is in no way a reputable journalist.

But if multiple teams are in fact interested in Sanchez, Arsenal would do very well to outmuscle their competitors and nab a winger who can play on both sides of the pitch and has one of the highest ceilings in the world.

The Gunners must fill their other needs first, but Sanchez should be squarely on Wenger's radar this summer.

 

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