Arsene Wenger has done many good things during his tenure at Arsenal Football Club. He has won Premier League titles, FA Cups and Littlewood/Milk/ Carling Cups and quite a few Charity Shield titles. He’s transformed some players from average to outstanding and he’s brought some of the most exciting and breathtaking football to the English game.
One of the other good things that Arsene Wenger has done in the 2014/15 season was to convince Alexis Sanchez to join the North London club. The move probably owed a bit to good fortune as Luis Suarez’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona hastened the Chilean’s exit – a front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez would likely have meant a significant amount of bench time for Sanchez. But kudos to Wenger as he convinced Sanchez that London should be his new home.
The reason why this move was so important to Arsenal is that Sanchez brings two key attributes to the club that have been missing since the title winning years of Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp et al: desire and hunger. Sanchez played alongside some of the world’s best players at Barcelona and won 6 honours during his three seasons at the Catalan club. Under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, the emphasis was on a high intensity pressing game played in the opponent’s half and possession tiki-taka style football.
It’s interesting to observe that Sanchez has brought this same pressing game with him to North London, and he continues to harry and pressure opposing defences whenever they are in possession of the football – importantly, he maintains this drive for the full 90 minutes. At times, he seems almost bewildered as to why the rest of his teammates are not as driven to win as he is.
Although Arsenal have historically tended to dominate the possession in a majority of their games, they have often struggled against less technically-gifted but tenacious and dogged teams. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is that many of the Arsenal team are not used to the winning habit and therefore are not able to grind out victories when required. The Arsenal team need to acquire and maintain the winning habit and Alexis Sanchez is a step in the right direction to achieving this.
Alexis Sanchez has acquired the winning habit and has both the desire and hunger to do so again at Arsenal, but he needs the right supporting cast around him in order to deliver the team back to the Promised Land. Some of those cast members are in place already – Ramsey, Ozil, Mertesacker, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla for example. These players have the vision and skill required to play the Arsenal style of football, but they require a defensive midfielder in the mould of an Alex Song to do the dirty work of breaking up opposition attacks and launching counter attacks. A world-class goalkeeper and striker would also not go amiss.
Arsene Wenger was recently quoted as saying that Arsenal has not gone backwards in the Premier League, and argued that the club’s freakishly long injury list has been too much to bear. And the Frenchman may have a valid point when he notes that the German football players tend to perform better at international tournaments due to their winter break, whilst Premier League players seem to suffer from fatigue and loss of form due to the non-stop football schedule in England.
However, Wenger would do better to look for ten Alexis Sanchez clones (in mentality at least) for the other positions in the team. That would surely provide some much-needed relief from the on-off “Wenger Out” banners.