Alexis Sanchez is reportedly inching ever closer to a move to Arsenal. The latest news from the Daily Mail suggests the Gunners may even have agreed a £34 million fee for the Chilean forward. Simon Jones writes:
Arsenal have agreed a £34million deal in principle with Barcelona for Chile international forward Alexis Sanchez but Barcelona are waiting to see if Juventus can match the offer.
Sanchez has indicated he does not want to join Liverpool despite their efforts to persuade him and Brendan Rodgers being keen to speak to the player.
The definitive nature of that report may be somewhat premature. Arsenal fans eager to greet the arrival of another marquee name await corroboration from Cataluna. Nevertheless, talk has already begun about what role Sanchez could fill in the Arsenal side.
Some Arsenal fans might curse this article. They spent much of last summer ruminating on how Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez might fit in to Arsene Wenger's team, only to end up disappointed. However, that's the transfer window for you. Rob yourself of the chance to speculate, and you rob yourself of half the fun.
"Fun" is something Sanchez would bring to the Arsenal XI in spades. His style of play is characterised by effervescence. He's a whirlwind of activity, buzzing around the final third and wreaking havoc wherever he goes.
At Barcelona, his best performances came on the right of a three-man attack. Should he move to Arsenal, he could get the chance to shine in that role straight away. Arsenal's usual right winger, Theo Walcott, is likely to be sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury for the early part of the season. If Sanchez were to arrive in time to acclimatise for the start of the 2014/15 campaign, he could step immediately in to that berth.
Where would Alexis Sanchez play for Arsenal?
However, it's once Walcott returns to fitness that the full extent of Sanchez's versatility would become clear. With Walcott more comfortable on the right flank, he could well be asked to switch over to the left.
The left wing has been something of a problem position for Arsenal in recent years. Santi Cazorla tends to look more comfortable in the centre, while Lukas Podolski has struggled to win the trust of Arsene Wenger. Sanchez, meanwhile, has the speed and dribbling ability to thrive in that role. What's more, he doesn't share Podolski's dislike for defensive work. He is full of tenacity as well as tricks.
Having Walcott on one flank and Sanchez on the other would give Arsenal a tremendous threat in wide areas. Both players are incredibly quick, and capable of breaking the line to run through on goal when required. That pacy pair could provide Mesut Ozil with the roving targets he missed for much of last season.
There's also the intriguing possibility that Arsene Wenger could be preparing to deploy Sanchez as a central striker. Although not a conventional No. 9 like Olivier Giroud, Sanchez is stocky and skillful enough to hold off most central defenders. He is, after all, almost as tall as Sergio Aguero, who has coped pretty well amid the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
Sanchez played as a central striker against England at Wembley back in the spring, and showed impressive strength to hold up the ball and bring others into play. He would offer Wenger a more mobile alternative to the likes of Giroud and Yaya Sanogo.
The conclusion is that Sanchez could fit into the Arsenal XI in a variety of ways. His versatility is one of his greatest strengths. If he does join the Gunners, he'll give Arsene Wenger huge flexibility when it comes to selecting his attack. For that reason alone, he'd be a fantastic signing.