Arsenal Must Remain Cautious in Transfer Move for Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez

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Arsenal Must Remain Cautious in Transfer Move for Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

It seems that one Arsenal-related rumor dominates all others during every transfer window.

Last summer, Arsene Wenger wanted a striker, and the club's pursuit of Luis Suarez became very public and painful. The infamous £40,000,001 bid went nowhere, the Gunners ending up with egg on their faces.

Come January, people were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of Schalke's Julian Draxler coming to North London for a fee well above £30 million. The move always seemed imminent but was never finalized.

Now the summer of 2014 seems to be the season of Alexis Sanchez.

Various players have been linked with differing degrees of veracity by myriad news sources, but none has been as consistently or vigorously mentioned as probable additions to Arsenal as the Chilean sensation.

That is, unsurprisingly, due in large part to Sanchez's performance at the World Cup before Chile's elimination by Brazil. He was the linchpin of his country's team, pulling slick flicks and tricks to lubricate an attack that over-performed all tournament.

Sanchez was the player every other Chilean looked to when attacks stagnated or there needed to be some sort of innovation to get through an opposing defense. He was fast, precise and, most importantly, had a keen eye for goal.

David Ramos/Getty Images

None of this is new, of course. Anyone who has watched Sanchez at Barcelona, and even during his days at Udinese before he moved to Spain, knows that he is a multifaceted player capable of dismantling defenses.

But is he what Arsenal need right now?

Well, first of all, let's consider whether Sanchez would succeed in the Premier League, which is vastly different from La Liga.

English football is, as is commonly known, the most physical brand of the game played anywhere in the world.

The Premier League is extraordinary in that it marries a rapidly played game with stereotypically English brawn—thus the old cliche that one can never truly gauge a player's suitability for the league unless he has been able to impress on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke.

Sanchez clearly has no problem with the pace of football at the highest level, having shredded defenses in the Champions League and on the grand stage of the World Cup. Moreover, his speed and the general cadence at which he operates are well-suited to the Premier League.

But one wonders whether he is physically up to the task.

Sanchez is 5'7", but that is not a problem in itself—Sergio Aguero is only one inch taller and plays in a position that requires more stature than Sanchez's usual wing role.

But Aguero is a really thick, strong man. Sanchez, in contrast, is quite slight and would face a very tough task against a physical full-back such as Seamus Coleman.

That must be a worry. Wafer-thin players cannot survive in the tough Premier League, and though the Chilean does not quite fit that description, he is no Aguero.

More importantly, though, does Sanchez fill a crucial area of need for the Gunners? While he would solidify an area of the squad that needed reinforcing last season, he plays a position that Arsenal already largely have covered.

At right wing: Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. On the left: Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Serge Gnabry. Sanchez would not struggle for game time, but Arsenal would be shunting excellent players.

Perhaps if the team was already solid in other key positions, Wenger would be able to have no qualms about signing him. But there are gaping holes at striker, right-back, defensive midfielder and, to a slightly lesser extent, centre-back.

Those positions are not luxuries for Arsenal; rather, they absolutely must be filled this summer.

If Wenger overlooks even one of them (or at least the first three) to sign Sanchez for upwards of £30 million, he has made a grave mistake.

If Arsenal really have saved so much money through the manager's past frugality and new sponsorship deals that there is enough money in the transfer and wage budgets for Sanchez and the other necessary positions, then he would only add to the squad.

But Wenger must not again neglect positions he has ignored, with title-deciding consequences, for far too long.

 

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