Alexis Sanchez: New Arsenal Star Is Wenger's Best Buy in Recent Seasons

Mikhail Turner@MikhailTurnerContributor IIIOctober 24, 2014

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger, right, gives instructions to his new signing Alexis Sanchez as he substituted on to make his debut, during the Emirates Cup soccer match between between Arsenal and Benfica at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Alexis Sanchez's arrival at Arsenal during the summer signaled the second marquee signing for Arsene Wenger, and Arsenal, in consecutive summers.

The Chilean attacker came to the club amid much fanfare on the back of his best season yet for his former club, Barcelona, and some great performances in the 2014 World Cup. It is still early, but on this form, Sanchez has been worth every penny.

Sanchez has been Arsenal's best attacking player so far this season even with Danny Welbeck's contribution. He's settled into the Premier League well after an initial period, and at only 25 years old, he has his best years ahead of him. 

Wenger told Sky Sports News back in January 2013 (h/t ESPN FC) that he was not afraid to spend but would only do so for the right player. Sanchez, not Mesut Ozil, is that player.

Ozil was heading into boo-boy range before his injury a few weeks ago and deserved some but not all of the criticism that came his way.

You get the sense that unlike Juan Mata or David Silva before him, Ozil may never fully adapt to the rough-and-tumble of the Premier League. He's the least athletic of that trio, and infinitely less athletic than his teammate Sanchez.

He was, and arguably still is, the best No. 10 in the game and may still silence all doubt once and for all with a run of games.

Sanchez, though, has hit the ground running and shows no sign of stopping.

The former Udinese and Barcelona attacker has a mixture of creativity, energy, skill and toughness that makes him a handful for opposing defenders every game. The work rate that he showed constantly with Chile, Udinese and Barcelona has transferred to the British Isles.

Should he continue to consistently perform at this level, and there's no reason he can't, he will be a major player for the club for years.

One could argue that he's already paid back his fee by scoring the goal to send Arsenal into the Champions League proper, but he's had a big impact elsewhere.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press/Associated Press

The most recent example is the Champions League encounter versus Anderlecht. On a domestic level, Sanchez has had a major impact in games against Manchester City, Tottenham and Hull City.

Why the last team on that list is even there is a worry in itself for the club, but that's a matter for another day.

Sanchez has scored five goals and provided three assists in all competitions for the Gunners so far, meaning that he's contributed to almost half of the Gunners' 20 goals this season.

He's played 13 of 14 Arsenal games so far this season, not including the Community Shield, which may seem a small sample size before you consider how many games are left for the Gunners.

Should Arsenal go the distance in all competitions, they would play 45 more times, resulting in a total of 59 games.

Sanchez has already played what would amount to 20 percent of that and, barring something unfortunate, he'll play much more. His WhoScored.com rating of 7.37, as well as his two key passes per game, are also indicative of his performance and contribution.

He's done that while being the main threat for a new team in a new league, so it's fun to imagine what may happen when everyone's fit and firing on all cylinders.

Of course, there have been one or two blips so far, such as his being hooked at halftime against Everton away. The entire attacking unit was below par against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, but Sanchez couldn't be faulted for his effort.

The lack of a winter break may be an issue too, as with anyone coming from another league, but again, his fitness level and his mentality suggests he can cope.

This current Arsenal team now boasts a few World Cup winners thanks to the German contingent, while some of the other recent arrivals, including Sanchez, boast title-winning experience across Europe. 

Despite all of that, the Chilean looks to be the best man to push his fellow teammates to want more and to work for it. He's led by example with his displays on the pitch already.

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I can't imagine a football match in which Alexis Sanchez wouldn't deserve to be on the winning side.

His reaction after the Anderlecht game was captured for all to see, and shows the type of winning mentality one gets from rubbing elbows with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi, Xavi and Carles Puyol.

That's not to knock the influence other players received, like Ozil with Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo or Welbeck with Sir Alex Ferguson, but Sanchez seems to be a step above with his level of commitment on the field.

None of this is meant to detract from the contributions and quality of other recent signings.

Ozil obviously sticks out right away, and it can be argued that his presence helped lift the squad, which he then led to the FA Cup victory last season. He still has yet to fully convince though, whereas Sanchez has already struck a chord with fans.

Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski were solid, experienced additions, but question marks surround them now. Olivier Giroud is serviceable and has been productive but is not a star, while Santi Cazorla has that star quality but is not going to be a leading man.

Welbeck and Mathieu Debuchy also joined this season, but doubts remain about a key facet of Welbeck's game, even though he may well become a star, and Debuchy is simply a replacement who won't rock the boat too much.

There are still problems within the Arsenal squad that Sanchez cannot fix on his own, even with his willingness to help defensively.

Fans will hope that he doesn't get too frustrated before those issues are resolved. He will be forgiven a few blips here and there given it's his debut season, but tailing off entirely is another proposition altogether.

Arsenal visit
Sunderland for the next game, and fans will be hoping that things improve after the Anderlecht performance.

If the team is in need of rescuing on the day, then Arsenal fans will be glad Wenger finally found the right player in the form of Alexis Sanchez.


All statistics courtesy of ESPN FC unless otherwise stated.