When Alexis Sanchez was confirmed as Arsenal’s first signing of the summer on July, 10th, a lot of persons wondered where exactly would be his position at Arsenal as the Chilean has all the attributes to play in several positions in the attacking third. The Chilean in his first interview when he was unveiled did not give anything away as to where his position would be, but did say the manager was still undecided in that.
However, Arsene Wenger finally stated why he brought in the former Udinese player, alluding to his versatility across the final third, a key he said swayed him to bring the ‘boy wonder’ to the Emirates.
“He is a striker and he’s a good finisher,”
“I like the fact he can play left, right, up front and that’s why I went for him.”
“At the moment I want to see him in both positions. But I took him because he is a player who has the qualities of Walcott, he goes behind the defenders off the ball. And with the quality of his runs he can be very important for us.”
Apart from his versatility, one thing stands out in Arsene Wenger’s comment; Alexis Sanchez’s ability to run behind opposition defenders. It was something Arsenal missed a lot last season, with practically nobody to play through balls to, because of a lack of movement in the final third. It meant there were lots of turnovers in midfield as, the opposition could easy press Arsenal high up the pitch without fear that they would be leaving space behind. The lumbering Oliver Giroud doesn’t possess the pace to do that.
Arsene Wenger also mentioned that he intends to use him in all positions before coming to a final conclusion of where the Chilean would play. The early part of the season could see him on the right wing because of Theo Walcott’s injury. Where it gets interesting is when Walcott returns from injury, how he intends to use both of them in the same line up would be closely observed.
Although, Alexis Sanchez has the attributes to play up top on his own, where an issue lies is whether he can hold up play with his back to goal, something Oliver Giroud is adept at. With his height (5ft 7in), he would be interesting to see how he fairs against some brute defenders in the Premier League.
Though, it should be stated that Sergio Aguero has not had much issues playing alone as a front man in a 4-3-3 formation for Manchester City. Though, that formation is marked by the midfield powerhouses in the middle, which means Arsenal, would have to get in a powerhouse midfielder with the requisite energy if Alexis Sanchez is to play regularly as a forward, so as to bring balance to the team.
His work rate and defensive nous means anywhere he plays, an high energy performance is expected particularly in the area of snapping at the heels of defenders when he play as a front man or helping out the full backs when he plays as a winger.
Where the full complement of Arsene Wenger’s plans becomes clear, is when all the players at his disposal become fit.