Alexis Sanchez Turns Arsenal into Genuine Premier League Contenders

Jerrad Peters@@jerradpetersWorld Football Staff WriterJuly 10, 2014

In acquiring Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, Arsenal have turned themselves into a genuine Premier League title contender.

They’ve done it by finally, and perhaps reluctantly, resolving to fill key positions by paying market value for transfer targets, and they’ve also taken advantage of unsettled circumstances in Spain along the way.

Ten months ago it was the £42.5 million swoop for Real Madrid’s Mesut Ozil that signalled both their intentions and a revolutionized approach to recruitment at the Emirates. Ozil, having run afoul of the decision-makers in the Spanish capital, became suddenly available, and acknowledging a need for a creative playmaker, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger spent what was necessary to land the Germany international.

Sanchez’s situation was similar in that he, along with the already-departed Cesc Fabregas, had been made a scapegoat for Barcelona’s difficult 2013-14 season. This, despite a campaign that saw him score 19 times in La Liga while contributing 10 assists.

Granted, there were times that the 25-year-old seemed to go missing, but if mini-slumps ever precluded big-money transfers, few players would ever change clubs.

In the Chile forward, Arsenal have obtained a strong, quick attacker with the ability to play down the left, down the right and through the middle. WhoScored.com shows he is also an efficient distributor of the ball, having completed 80 percent of his passes last term—many of them in the high-risk area of the attacking third.

Potentially, Wenger can now deploy Sanchez, Ozil and Santi Cazorla behind Olivier Giroud, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available to replace any one of them and Theo Walcott on standby should he be fit.

Add Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey to the mix and Arsenal’s front six is suddenly among the best in England, with Cazorla the oldest at 29 years of age.

It’s a team that, while built over time, was also rushed forward by desperation following Robin van Persie’s exit in 2012. That both Ozil and Sanchez have joined since then is hardly a coincidence, and to that end it’s arguable that the Dutchman’s loss expedited Wenger’s project.

Arsenal fans are about to see the benefits of that acceleration, and with a clean bill of health it’s perfectly feasible that they could be celebrating a championship in under a year’s time. Or, at least, competing for one in the final weeks of the season—which is really all you can aspire to before the season has even begun.

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