Alexis Sanchez has already solidified himself in North London as Arsenal’s most dangerous attacker and a fan favorite among Gunners. With five goals through eight league games and two assists to go along with that, Alexis has started his debut season at Arsenal wonderfully. During the last league outing though, Alexis was deployed by Arsene Wenger in the center, behind Danny Welbeck, in the ‘number 10’ role. With Welbeck at the number 9 role and Alexis at the 10, Arsenal have an opportunity to have a pairing as productive as one to the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
This ‘number 10’ role is one that Arsenal have rotated Oezil and Ramsey through, but Sanchez really shined in his opportunity there last weekend. His pace and work rate is unrelenting, and was the sole reason for both Arsenal goals. Playing in the center attacking midfield role, Alexis is free to roam all over the field, causing havoc for opposing defenders and making opportunities for Gunner attackers, which is something that will be very special for Arsenal.
A lot of people forget about Alexis Sanchez before his Barcelona days, where he spent his time at the Italian side Udinese. While in the Serie A, he played a lot in this forward role, sitting above the midfield, but behind the central striker. Alexis was very successful in this role even at his young age, which was helped by Antonio Di Natalie playing ahead of him. With Di Natalie in front of him, Alexis was allowed to roam freely and create these situations that we got a glimpse of last weekend. This position for Sanchez was abandoned at Barcelona, as Lionel Messi has sufficed everybody’s greatest needs there. Now in London though, Arsenal have a need for a free roaming play maker behind the striker, and Sanchez has the opportunity yet again.
Mesut Oezil would be the highest beneficiary from Alexis moving into the middle, and that’s something that Arsenal needs. Oezil has been a little underwhelming as of late, a lot of which is him still adjusting to Arsenal futbol. Arsene Wenger has gotten a lot of criticism for playing Oezil on the left flank, although it is something that he is somewhat familiar with. While Oezil has seemed to struggle down the left wing for Arsenal, he thrived there particularly in the latter of Germany’s World Cup run.
The problem with Oezil I think has lied with the players around him, as Wilshere, Ramsey, and Cazorla lack the natural pace and play making ability of someone like Alexis Sanchez. While at Real Madrid, Oezil was surrounded with the best players in the world, specifically Christiano Ronaldo, who gave him help and opportunities to play and move the ball forward countless numbers of times. With Alexis in the middle, Oezil would now be next to the Chilean firecracker, which can only help with his form. Alexis’ pace and work will allow Oezil to have some exchange play with a play maker of top quality, something that he has yet to have while at Arsenal.
With all this new found vacancy on the right, you can almost hear Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scream with joy. He has undeservingly seen the bench for most of this season, as he has been impressive with the appearances that he does have. Alexis rarely leaves his post on the right, but if he were to have a permanent move to the middle, the wing would hold a lot of opportunity. Theo Walcott is returning soon, so he would obviously command a large and starting role. He is coming off a long term injury though, and Chamberlain will surely get a lot of time while working Walcott back in. Oxlade-Chamberlain has great pace and touch, and at only 21 years of age, still has potential to be a Walcott like force. To get there though, he needs to see more time on the pitch.
While fans will be hopeful for Oezil to adjust, Gunners near and far have been awaiting the day that Theo Walcott returns to first team action. Thinking back to when Walcott was last healthy, you can remember him as a constant threat down the flank with an unparalleled pace and clinical finish. Sanchez has yet to play with Walcott, and their speed and movement are sure to terrorize opposing defenses.
With Oezil to his left, Walcott to his right, and Welbeck ahead of him, Alexis will have free reign to roam around the middle. With these types of players around him, Sanchez will be able to do what he wants, even if he does get out of position. His ridiculous work ethic will also help him greatly, on the field and off. When he does find himself out of position or if he gets beat, you can bet he is hustling to get back into the play. Not only does his effort make him the great player he is, the Gunner fans really appreciate someone who they are put so much faith into to give his all for them. Alexis Sanchez is truly world class, and almost positively an Arsenal star in the making.