Alexis Sanchez Is the Forward Arsenal Have Been Looking for

Graham Ruthven@@grahamruthvenFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Chile's Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and Chile at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday, June 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

It was a moment of sheer ferocity. With a win over Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season, Barcelona would have been Liga champions. And for about 10 minutes, such an outcome looked somewhat likely.

As the half-hour mark passed, Alexis Sanchez lashed the ball into the Atleti net from a near impossible angle, to put Barca 1-0 up at Camp Nou. Of course, Diego Godin’s equaliser saw the title head to the capital, but Sanchez had almost made a season-defining mark.

Demonstrations of such ability from Sanchez have been all too rare over the course of his three-year stay at Barcelona.

But now, the Chilean looks set for the Premier League, as Barcelona try to finally move on from the Pep Guardiola era. Sanchez is not seen as part of the future at Camp Nou.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Matt Law of the Telegraph reports that Arsenal are hopeful of winning the race to sign Sanchez, although Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are also believed to be monitoring the situation (via Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star).

But which club would make a perfect destination for the 25-year-old? After spending so long playing as a peripheral figure, Sanchez now deserves a team where he is the headliner, rather than the supporting act.

If the player is looking for a club where silverware will almost come written into his contract, Man City is the team for him. But would he be able to displace Sergio Aguero, a somewhat similar player, from the starting lineup? And would Aguero and Sanchez be able to play together, given their near identical skill sets?

United are also reported to be interested in the Chilean. If Van Gaal is to use the 4-3-3 formation he has used all the way through his managerial career, Sanchez could be the kind of dynamic forward Man Utd needs to complete their front line.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

But it is Arsenal and Liverpool who have had most conviction in their chase of Sanchez, although reports on Tuesday suggest the Gunners might have pulled ahead of the Reds and Serie A suitors Juventus.

At Liverpool, Sanchez would be a like-for-like replacement for the outgoing Luis Suarez. Brendan Rodgers could hardly find a better successor to the Uruguayan, with Sanchez sharing many of Suarez’s qualities and traits. 

However, if Sanchez wants to be the main man, he will find no better option than joining Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. The Frenchman spent two weeks in Brazil watching two of the Chilean’s games at the World Cup, presumably weighing up a move for the forward.

A successful campaign with Chile has put the forward firmly in the shop window. He possesses a low centre of gravity and quick change of pace as well as a tenacious edge, making him tailor-made for the demands of the English game.

Sanchez will work the channels in the way Olivier Giroud refuses to, representing a significant step up in quality in the attacking options at the Emirates.

In his three years at the Catalan club, Sanchez has rarely been appreciated for his true worth. At Barca, he was little more than an impact substitution, or a player to stretch the pitch for more central players to take advantage of.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

What will be galling for Sanchez is that his last campaign was the best he had enjoyed in three years at Barcelona. The Chilean made 27 appearances—his highest tally at the club—and finished as the team’s second top scorer with 19 goals.

But Luis Enrique has already started clearing out his squad, with Cesc Fabregas joining Chelsea last month, Xavi heading to Qatar and Carles Puyol retiring. Sanchez will be next, with the only question remaining regarding his destination.

As a kid, Sanchez washed cars to make just enough money to buy football boots and balls, scurrying along rooftops to retrieve stray shots, earning himself the nickname "ardilla"—which translates as "the squirrel."

It’s this kind of enterprise on the pitch that endears Sanchez to everyone, besides those who have decided his future at Barcelona, that is.

With Barcelona leading Real Madrid 1-0 at Camp Nou, Alexis Sanchez burst through on goal, latching on to a Neymar through ball and blasting past Raphael Varane with an effortless spurt of speed. From 18 yards, he then lobbed the ball over the advancing Diego Lopez and into the net.

It’s this kind of thing that Premier League clubs are fighting over. Sanchez is the kind of player so many teams are looking for.