Sanchez deserves to compete with Europe's elite but where would he fit in?

Alex Rea 19/05/2017
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For much of this season Alexis Sanchez has been the complete antithesis of Arsenal.

While the club has floundered, the Chilean has flourished, scoring 23 goals and remarkably, considering he’s operated for the much of the season as a centre-forward, has added 10 assists in the Premier League as well.

Yet his individual quality has not been enough to offset Arsenal’s dismal campaign and that is a damning indictment of just how poor Arsene Wenger’s side have been this season.

With the Gunners set to miss out on Champions League football next term, despite the 28-year-old hitting top form, there is a strong sense that Sanchez could depart in the summer with just one year left to run on his contract.

Indeed, Arsenal are currently 18 points off league champions Chelsea and Sanchez’s commitment, dynamism and artistry deserves much more than to be cut so far adrift of elite competition.

His exasperation has been obvious all season as his frustrated body language has meant he has not needed a perfect grasp of English to voice his discontent at Arsenal’s exploits.

It’s something which he touched upon after scoring twice to secure another three points in the 2-0 win over Sunderland on Tuesday night.

When asked about his on-pitch frustrations he told SkySports: “Because sometimes when I look at the team we have and the players here… because when it comes to winning the Premier League we often lose or draw against teams at home when we are superior.

“Sometimes the frustration more than anything is about the fact we could be challenging for the Premier League title.

“I’ve always said we have great players here, it’s just about having the mentality of being a great player and going out on to the pitch already thinking about winning.”

Sanchez has consistently been the man to conjure something from nothing and has without doubt operated as the player Arsenal look to for penetration in the final third.

All too often this season they have been one-paced and short of ingenuity but with Sanchez on the ball they have looked a threat with his direct approach putting defences on the back foot.

You see, the former Barcelona attacker has been much more than just a lethal finisher this season – he’s been one of the most complete forwards in Europe.

Ultimately, Sanchez is a game changer, a rare blend of ferociousness and mercurial ability tied into a born winner. Arsenal’s struggles this season will mean that he will no doubt invite offers from some of the best clubs in Europe, especially given he has refused so far to sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium.

So, of the potential suitors how does he match up with their current stars and where would he possibly fit in?

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

The Ligue 1 giants are thought to be chief among the clubs monitoring Sanchez’s situation and it seems they have already called upon their top stars to begin the courting process.

Edinson Cavani was asked this week about the prospect of Sanchez or Aubameyang joining the Parisian’s in the summer and he told Canal: “If they come, they are welcome. We always hope that new players complete the team with their qualities.”

Sanchez’s ambition to showcase his talent at Europe’s top table runs parallel with PSG’s obsessive desire to win their first Champions League trophy.

A move to Paris would facilitate Sanchez’s desire to live in a desirable major city while also giving PSG’s young core a sprinkling of much-needed experience.

The manner of their exit to Barcelona is a testament to the inexperience of the young squad and Sanchez would be an ideal solution.

Having bought Julian Draxler in January while reaped the rewards of building their attack around Cavani, it would suggest Angel Di Maria would be the man to make way for Sanchez.

The Chilean has operated on the left flank at times this season and in terms of league statistics has 108 successful take-ons to Di Maria’s 34 while he has also created four more chances (76) than the Argentine (72) and laid on three more assists with Sanchez grabbing 10.

MANCHESTER CITY

Arsenal would of course be unwilling to sell their prized asset to a Premier League rival but they have set a precedent in the past.

In a similar scenario, Robin Van Persie was sold to Manchester United as he entered the final year of his contract and City could be the club to exploit the rift between Sanchez and Arsenal.

Sergio Aguero has had no reassurances over his future at the Etihad Stadium and it seems clear Pep Guardiola will be on the look out for a striker this summer.

Sanchez is a player he knows well having spent a season with the Chilean before he stepped down at Barcelona in 2012.

And the 28-year-old has improved drastically since then, emerging as a complete forward who would fit seamlessly into Guardiola’s fluid system.

He would also represent a cheaper option to comparable forward’s like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang given he will enter the last year of his contract in the summer.

Sanchez has scored five more goals (23) than Aguero (18), registered eight more assists and crucially has created 76 chances to the Argentine’s 28 in the league this season.

His tenacity and work rate off the ball as well as his direct approach and clinical finishing would make him an ideal fit for Pep and City.

JUVENTUS

Juventus’ €90million outlay for Gonzalo Higuain last summer added to an embarrassment of riches in attack for boss Max Allegri with Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic all at his disposal.

The Old Lady are also perpetually linked with a move for Sanchez so the question therefore is why would they need to sign the Arsenal man?

From a tactical standpoint, Juve switched to a 4-2-3-1 earlier this year with Manzukic and Cuadrado occupying the two wide positions in a three behind Higuain.

While the pair have offered genuine quality in attack and have been more than adept from a defensive point of view, Sanchez is represents and upgrade and the Chile international’s versatility to operate in behind or out wide is a clear attraction for Allegri as is his familiarity with Serie A.

Adjusting to the slower more rigorous nature of Italian football can be a tricky process but Sanchez has already blossomed during a sublime stint with Udinese from 2006-11.

BAYERN MUNICH

The Bavarian’s are another European superpower who have been noted to have an interest in Sanchez and their desire to sign him is much more pronounced than the clubs mentioned above purely because of the age of Carlo Ancelotti’s squad.

Indeed, Bayern have the oldest side in the Bundesliga this season, according to ESPN, and remarkably fielded their oldest ever team in Champions League history – with an average age of 30.3 – as they were knocked out by Real Madrid.

While wingers Arjen Robben (33) and Franck Ribery (34) continue to perform at the highest level there will be some much needed turnover in the summer with Philipp Lahm (33) and Xabi Alonso (35) both retiring at the end of this season.

A move for Sanchez is an obvious fit. Ribery is replaceable and even though Robben doesn’t seem to be in decline just yet, there have been signs of it.

Sanchez is a proven and versatile talent and even though he is coming into his peak, it provides Bayern enough time to discover younger alternatives.

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FA introduce retrospective diving ban - Players who could've been suspended

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Some players could be left to sweat after the Football Association voted in favour of introducing retrospective bans for players who dive or feign injury from next season.

From Rivaldo’s theatrical grasp of the wrong part of his anatomy, to Gordon Watson’s ludicrously delayed topple in the Leeds box, the game has seen it all.

Here we pick out some of the more extreme examples of simulation which would be ripe for punishment under the FA’s new rules:

RIVALDO (Brazil, 2002)

The Barcelona star collapsed clutching his face late in his country’s World Cup clash with Turkey in 2002 – despite Turkey’s Hakan Unsal having kicked the ball at his leg while he was waiting to take a corner. FIFA fined a resolutely non-contrite Rivaldo a trifling £5,180, but decided not to suspend him.

He said: “I’m not sorry about anything. Obviously the ball didn’t hit me in the face, but I was still the victim.”

SLAVEN BILIC (Croatia, 1998)

Bilic denied France hero Laurent Blanc the chance to play in his home World Cup final after his dramatic response to a bit of shirt-tugging in their last four clash. Late in the game, Bilic went down holding his face, prompting the Spanish referee to issue Blanc the only red card of his career.

Replays showed contact was dubious. Years later Bilic insisted: “It wasn’t like Mike Tyson, but I was struck. I panicked and collapsed.”

GORDON WATSON (Sheffield Wednesday, 1992)

Leeds were cruising to victory at Hillsborough when Chris Whyte went to sweep the ball away from Watson in the box and the Owls star hesitated, had a long think, then flipped to the ground, winning a penalty from which Wednesday would briefly reduce the deficit.

Watson was held up to ridicule, and admitted much later: “It’s the most disgraceful dive you’ll ever see. It was the fact I took a step before going down. I over-egged it.”

KYLE LAFFERTY (Rangers, 2009)

When Lafferty and Aberdeen’s Charlie Mulgrew squared up on the touchline during their Scottish Premier League clash in 2009, the Rangers man went down as if he had been Glasgow-kissed – not, as replays would clearly show – air-kissed.

Mulgrew was sent off, but such was the resulting furore that Lafferty was fined and reprimanded by his club, forced to issue a fulsome apology, and banned for two matches by the SFA.

SERGIO BUSQUETS (Barcelona, 2010)

Busquets got Inter Milan’s Thiago Motta sent off less than half an hour into their Champions League semi-final clash at the Nou Camp when he feigned injury after a so-called “clash” with the Italian. Replays showed Thiago’s fingers had barely tickled the Barcelona man’s chin.

An incensed Motta railed: “He always does it. I have seen it on TV and he is holding his face and then looking at the referee – it is terrible behaviour.”

*From Press Association

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Transfer Gossip: Alves, Sissoko, Tolisso, Bernardo Silva

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With the season coming to a close, the transfer window is about to open.

Rumours are gathering apace and we take a look at the latest stories doing the rounds in the media.

DANI ALVES

With Kyle Walker looking likely to leave Tottenham in the summer Yahoo are reporting that the club will turn to Juventus full-back Dani Alves to replace the England international.

The 34-year-old has one year left on his lucrative deal with the Serie A giants and the report says there is an option for a third campaign.

However, the right back is said to be keen on a move to the Premier League and Spurs have apparently offered a two-year deal with the option for a third.

RATING: 6/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: The former Barcelona defender has previously talked about a move to England and given his age, this probably represents his last opportunity to fulfill that ambition.

It would be a move away from Spurs’ usual transfer policy given his age but undoubtedly he’s been one of the best right backs in the world this season having been a central figure in Juve’s charge for a trophy treble.

Should Walker depart it’s a move which makes sense.

MOUSSA SISSOKO

Sticking with Spurs and France midfielder Sissoko has been surprisingly linked with a move to Barcelona with AC Milan and Real Madrid also reportedly interested in the 27-year-old.

The £30million (Dh142m) buy from Newcastle has been nothing short of a flop this season having only turned out 13 times for the North Londoners this season.

However, Don Balon are saying the La Liga giants could be ready to help resurrect his career.

RATING: 2/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: Just don’t see it. It sounds an awful lot like Sissoko’s agent is trying to alert potential suitors and if that’s the case, they’re looking in the wrong direction.

The transfer window is upon laides and gentleman, prepare yourselves for rumours even more farcical than this one.

CORENTIN TOLISSO

Arsene Wenger is plotting a major overhaul of his Arsenal squad – providing as expected he signs a new deal at the Emirates Stadium – and the Lyon star is thought to be chief among his targets.

The midfielder is valued at £30million (Dh142m) according to the Mirror but they will have to compete with Serie A clubs Napoli and Juventus for his signature.

Tolisso’s desire to break into France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup is said to be a fundamental factor in his desire to leave after Lyon failed to qualify for the Champions League.

RATING: 5/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: When dissecting this rumour the first reason for doubt is the fact Arsenal are unlikely to secure Champions League football for next season as well.

However, the size and stature of the club could be enough to tempt the 22-year-old into a switch. Keep an eye on this one.

 

BERNARDO SILVA

He’s a target of Manchester United and the talented Portugal midfielder has said he dreams of leaving Monaco for one of the “best teams”.

“I am finishing my third season in Monaco, who gave me the opportunity to play at a higher level,” he said in an interview with SIC.

“But of course, every player dreams of playing for the best teams and in the best divisions one day. I’m no exception.”

The 22-year-old is said to be valued at around £70m (Dh333m) while United are also looking at Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez.

RATING: 6/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: Monaco have just beaten Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title and reached the Champions League semi-final this season. It’s fair to surmise that they are one of the best teams in Europe right now and if they can keep the squad together will remain a force.

Silva is their chief creator and forms part of the young nucleus which makes this side tick. It’s hard to comprehend them allowing him to leave but then United have deep pockets and a vacuum to fill in midfield.

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An update on the Watford managerial vacancy

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