Alexis Sanchez - Arsenal's Loss, City's Gain?

By Paul Stewart, Thu 03 August 2017 08:52

Alexis Sanchez - Arsenal's Loss, City's Gain?Winger could be the final piece in Pep Guardiola's jigsaw

The biggest transfer saga of the off-season has surrounded the future of Alexis Sanchez, who looks likely to leave Arsenal before the closure of the transfer window.

The Chile international has entered the last year of his contract at the Emirates Stadium, but boss Arsene Wenger has regularly insisted he will keep Sanchez and instead risk losing him for nothing in a year's time.

Sanchez is on record as saying he wants to play in the Champions League, which suitors Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Bayern Munich can all offer the 28-year-old.

Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years last season, which is expected to make it tough for the Gunners to hold on to their prize asset.

But who is at the front of the queue for Sanchez - and what would they be buying?

City in pole position

Just about every bookmaker, including 32Red Sport, has City as the a 7/4 odds-on favourite to sign Sanchez.

With Bayern having seemingly given up on their attempts to sign Sanchez and PSG apparently now focusing their efforts on Barcelona superstar Neymar, City look to be in pole position.

Pep Guardiola has already spent a small fortune this summer, with City laying out £200 million to overhaul their defence ahead of the new Premier League season.

Bernardo Silva is the only attacking arrival at the Etihad Stadium so far, with the former Monaco man likely to add stardust to a team already packed with dangerous creators and goalscorers.

Sanchez would join Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus in a strikeforce that is already full of goals, but Guardiola knows what he would be getting after working with him at Barcelona.

Sanchez's awesome record

Last season was without a doubt the most successful in Sanchez's career to date.

He hit 24 Premier League goals and also contributed 10 assists for his Gunners team-mates, but it still was not enough to get Arsenal into the top four at the end of the campaign.

Sanchez has also scored three goals in three successive Champions League seasons, indicating he is good enough to perform at the very top level of European football.

That will be one of the most important indicators for City, who are yet to win the Champions League and were outclassed by Monaco in the last-16 of the tournament last season.

Can Sanchez stay at Arsenal?

Arsenal fans will still be hoping that Sanchez can somehow be persuaded to stay at the club.

But it increasingly appears as though his mind is made up. Having been given an extended period of holiday after starring for Chile in their run to the final of the Confederations Cup over the summer, Sanchez is yet to return to Arsenal.

He also gave an interview to a television station in his homeland where he signalled his desire to play in the Champions League, which was assumed to be a clear indication of his preference to leave Arsenal and move to a new club.

Sanchez is due to return to training this weekend, although Wenger said he will not take part in Arsenal's Emirates Cup matches against Benfica and Sevilla on Saturday and Sunday.

However, the Chilean cast doubt on his potential involvement in pre-season training by posting a photo to social media on Friday in which he said he was "sick". Wrapped up in a scarf and jumper and seemingly sat on the floor with his dog, Sanchez does not look to be ready to play.

With Arsenal set to be in action against Chelsea in the Community Shield next weekend, then getting their Premier League campaign under way five days later against Leicester City, Arsenal need to get Sanchez fit and firing as soon as possible.

But his social media updates suggest he may be considering refusing to play for the Gunners in a bid to force a move away, which would put Wenger in a very awkward position indeed.

City are reportedly his preferred destination, with Bayern apparently satisfied with their business after the loan signing of James Rodriguez, while PSG are seemingly unwilling to meet his wage demands - it has been claimed Sanchez wants to be paid £400,000 a week.

But where would the 28-year-old fit into Guardiola's plans?

Where would Sanchez fit at City?

As he hit 30 goals in all competitions last season, it is arguable that Guardiola would be able to find a place for Sanchez regardless of the many other attacking options he has in his squad.

Guardiola teamed Aguero with Jesus to great effect in some games towards the end of last season and the pair look to be a very threatening partnership indeed.

Sanchez operated from the left flank on occasion for Arsenal, with Olivier Giroud leading the line in a central striking role, so he could feature in this position for City as well.

But they have plenty of wide options, having lavished funds on Bernardo Silva, who can operate on either flank, while Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling provide plenty of pace and incision too.

There is even more competition in attacking midfield at City, with a handful of players who would prefer to operate in a number 10 role behind a striker if they were given the chance to do so.

David Silva has a claim to be the greatest player in City's history, while Kevin De Bruyne recorded more assists than anyone in the Premier League last season.

Although he is more than capable of playing in a withdrawn midfield role in front of the back four, Yaya Toure is also at his best further forward where he can be a goal threat, having scored 20 league goals in the 2013-14 Premier League season for City.

With Sanchez likely to command a fee in the region of £50 million, it would be the third time of the summer City have laid out that amount for a player, having already signed Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy to improve their full-back options.

But it is hard to see a £50 million player sat on the bench and although City will be looking to compete on multiple fronts this season, Sanchez would surely be dissatisfied with a bench role.

Swap with Aguero?

It has been suggested that a swap deal involving Sanchez and Aguero could be a way forward. Arsenal legend Paul Merson is among those to have floated the idea, which might have merit.

With there being no obvious place in the City team for Sanchez to take, Aguero going the other way as part of the deal would create an obvious opening up front.

Sanchez is happy to carry out the pressing from the front that Guardiola demands from his team, which Aguero has sometimes found it hard to adapt to - as he is a pure goal poacher.

Arsenal would surely be delighted to bring Aguero to the Emirates Stadium, as he is one of the most proven scorers in Premier League history, although they have already splashed the cash on signing Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette this summer.

City fans love Aguero and no doubt would prefer for him to stay at the club, but the striker is unlikely to be happy unless he is the first choice. With Jesus having kept him out of the team for  a period last time, Aguero may see the arrival of Sanchez as a further threat to his position.

Whether or not Aguero would go to Arsenal, who cannot offer him the Champions League football he will be craving, is another doubt. But perhaps there is a compromise that could be struck to suit all parties - City, Arsenal, Sanchez and Aguero.

Bravo wants Sanchez at City

A final factor to consider in any possible deal for Sanchez to move to City is the presence of his international skipper Claudio Bravo at the Etihad Stadium.

Bravo has said Sanchez would be welcomed "with open arms" should he opt to move to City and the familiar face of a compatriot would surely allow the forward to settle in easier.

However, Bravo's future at City could be in doubt after the arrival of Ederson from Benfica, who by some measures became the world's most expensive goalkeeper of all time. Bravo is expected to be the number two for Guardiola this season.

With Sanchez due to report at Arsenal for training this weekend, the saga is surely inching towards its conclusion with the Premier League season only two weeks away now.

But the transfer window does not close until the end of August, so there could be plenty of twists and turns to come, even after the big kick-off next month, before Sanchez's future is resolved.