For quite a few seasons now, Arsenal had failed to sign the kind of players that can make a difference to the team. They have always gone for the cheap option, and while the rare Santi Cazorla comes up at that price once in a while, more often than not it has been a line of mediocrity that was just about enough to finish in the top 4. But from a couple of seasons now, things have changed with the signing of Mesut Ozil and then the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez at the start of this season.
The Chilean has been a revelation this season. Becoming the focal point of an injury ridden team and almost single-handedly winning games for Arsenal. He had a difficult month or two at the beginning, while he was trying to adjust to a new team, a new league, and a new environment. Arsene Wenger even dropped him for a few games because he was slowing things down with his penchant to hold on to the ball longer than at the pace the team played. For Arsenal, ita s mostly about give and go passing, and Alexis was used to having more time on the ball while he was at Barcelona.
Reports emerged that he was being trained by Arsene Wenger and team to release the ball quicker and run into space to get it back again. Whether that is true or not, there definitely was a marked improvement in his performances as the season went by, so much so that the team started depending solely on him to get the results after a horrendous start to the league campaign.
Alexis Sanchez is a player who likes to carry the team on his shoulders, and who wants to do everything himself. He is one of the busiest players on the pitch and you can always see him haring after the ball wherever it is. He helps out in defence and is quick on the offensive side too, giving opposition defenders nightmares. In a way, he is a complete contrast to Ozil, who is more of a clever player who ghosts around the forward line, picking the perfect pass and making the perfect movement to ensure the ball is not wasted. Most of what he does is invisible to the untrained eye, but his impact is undeniable in the team, especially when all his managers sing his praises.
Different players, different styles, different impact.
However, it is more than just a coincidence that Sancheza s best performances have come in the absence of Mesut Ozil, who had been ruled out with injury for a major part of the season. As a result, the most creative player in the team was Santi Cazorla, and Sanchez would combine with him and get into the box to score all those goals. The team looked to him to make things happen, and most of the play went through him to get the end product. Essentially, the responsibility was being shouldered by just one person.
But since Ozila s return, the creative fulcrum is more around two people than a single person, with Ozil and Cazorla sharing the workload to create chances for the goalscorers in the team. Now that the team had two outlets to create chances, not everything went through Alexis but the goals didna t dry up at as well. The responsibility and the workload has been shared around the team, with other players coming into play because of the double creative platform, and so more goals are being scored by Giroud, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, etc. The shift in the attacking pivot has not affected the team in general, but seems to have had an impact on Alexis Sanchez in particular.
Granted, he was injured for a few weeks and that definitely takes its toll on the body. Also, having been used to a winter break throughout his career, the sheer number of games that he has played throughout the festive period would have had an impact on his body too. Since the turn of the year, Sanchez hasna t had the same impact on the team and results that he has had throughout the season.
However, despite Arsenal being on a good run of form, it would be important for their most successful player of the season to step up and pitch in with some goals as the end of season run in begins, if they want to make sure that 2nd place in the league is theirs and even think of a shot at the title. If Sanchez can figure out how to make Cazorla and Ozil work to his advantage, then there would be an additional threat for Arsenal to make use of, and opposition defenders would find it that much harder to keep Arsenal out.