5 Bold Predictions for Alexis Sanchez's Debut Season with Arsenal
The Chilean has shone for years for his country and Barcelona, where he first became world famous. Now he'll get to showcase his talents at a club where he is one of the biggest players.
It is often difficult to predict how foreign players from different leagues will fare during their first seasons in the Premier League, even if they are objectively excellent.
With that in mind, let's make five relatively bold predictions about how Sanchez's debut campaign will unfold.
He Plays (and Succeeds) in the Center
Arsenal still have only one true, out-and-out striker (not counting the goalless Yaya Sanogo), and that surely relates to Arsene Wenger's stated belief that Sanchez can play in the middle.
While ESPN's James Dall might disagree with the manager, Sanchez has all the tools to succeed as a striker in the Premier League.
He does not have the stature of a typical lone forward, sure, but he makes up for this deficiency with dazzling quickness and technical skill.
Premier League defenders might be bigger and more physical, on average, than those in La Liga, but Sanchez can link up with his teammates so well that he compensates for lack of grit with guile.
He Gets Bullied at First
While Sanchez absolutely has the talent to thrive in England, he will probably be surprised, as many are, by just how tough it is to thrive in the most demanding league on earth.
Mesut Ozil and many others have gone through the process of hardening up and playing more quickly in a more difficult league for a team that depends on them more than their previous one did. It is nothing new and nothing to be frightened about when he first starts playing.
Sanchez is good enough to cope and adapt, but he will probably not adapt as instantly as Santi Cazorla did when he signed two years ago.
He Struggles for the First Month or so
Due to the World Cup's interference with preseason preparations, Sanchez will not be able to link up with his new teammates until right before the start of the season.
Fans should temper their initial expectations about Sanchez's performance. He will not have been able to jell with the rest of the squad and form the chemistry which is so important to a cohesive squad but which can take a while to form organically.
Fortunately, the Chilean is so good that his quality alone will probably be able to compensate for the rawness of everything. Even so, there will still very likely be a period of failure (or at least more moderate success) before he truly unleashes his talent.
He Makes Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla Unhappy
Sanchez will probably play in Theo Walcott's position on the right wing before the Englishman comes back in September. Once Walcott is back to full fitness, he will have to push some very good players out of the team.
Everyone will get a chance to play during the course of the season with cup competitions, injuries and fatigue, but with everyone fit, one would assume that the front line will be Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Sanchez.
That leaves Lukas Podolski, a goalscoring machine, and twinkle-toed Wenger favorite Santi Cazorla on the bench. Podolski cannot really play anywhere other than the left wing, while Cazorla's other position—attacking midfield—is occupied by Mesut Ozil.
He Is Even More Successful Than He Was at Barcelona
Barcelona is a fantastic team and keeps improving, but Sanchez's creativity and enormous talent was somewhat squelched at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi and Neymar were the unquestioned centerpieces of the team, not to mention their famous midfield trio. Though world class, Sanchez was forced to support the club's bigger names and compelled to tiki-taka his way around the pitch, as is the Barca way.
Arsenal will allow him to unleash his full range of skills for the first time since he first made a name for himself at Udinese.
He will now be able to use his speed and lightning quickness to get behind defenders on the counterattack (not a Barca-like strategy), and he will be one of the linchpins of the team.
As Sanchez showed for Chile in the World Cup, he is capable of slicing through defenses by himself if given the freedom to do so.