David Dein feels Alexis Sanchez reminds him of Thierry Henry now that he is starring at centre forward, but is the former Arsenal vice-chairman right?
Dein helped transform Arsenal as a club during his reign, and was a part of the club hierarchy during their most successful years in recent history. Dein was not only responsible for converting Highbury into an all-seater stadium, but it is also generally agreed that without his insistence and input, Arsene Wenger would have never been appointed manager of Arsenal.
Dein’s departure in acrimonious circumstances in 2007 was met with much disdain from figures inside the club, with Arsene Wenger the most vocal of them. His departure was also a deciding factor in Theirry Henry’s decision to move to Barcelona, according to the Frenchman. But, according to Dein, Arsenal have finally found a replacement for the Arsenal legend in Alexis Sanchez.
“Yeah and certainly he is extraordinarily talent.” Dein said when asked if Sanchez’s career trajectory reminded him of Henry’s, according to the London Evening Standard,
“He’s got a great attitude to the game and immense skill. So he’s an exciting player.”
“I think you’ve got to say he’s world class,” Dein said. “He’s fantastic. He’s a delight.
Dein was a part of the Arsenal set-up long before Thierry Henry arrived, and so he saw exactly how Henry grew into the striker that he became over the course of his career.
The Frenchman was signed by Juventus in the January transfer window of 1999, joining his compatriot David Trezeguet. However, Henry was at the time deployed as a winger, and severely struggled against Italian defences in that role.
Juventus lost patience with him almost immediately, and Arsene Wenger snapped up his former player only 8 months later for a fee of £11 million. The 22-year old Henry was brought in to replace the departing Nicolas Anelka, and Wenger immediately moved him into a position that he thought Henry would excel in – Centre Forward.
However, doubts about Henry’s ability to adapt to life in a different league resurfaced again. Many thought he simply could not cope with the physicality and pace of the English Premier League after he failed to score in his first eight games.
After several difficult months in England, Henry himself conceded that he had to “be re-taught everything about the art of striking.” Nevertheless, Henry soon found his footing and a haul of 26 goals in his very first season in England would go a long way in silencing most of his doubters.
Henry would go on to become Arsenal’s top goalscorer of all time, with 228 goals in 376 appearances.
This season, Arsenal have had a new talisman who has been leading the team from the front. Arsene Wenger has previously tried deploying Sanchez as a centre forward, but never with any real conviction or consistency. As a result, Sanchez never really got a real run at centre forward and played on the left wing for the first two years of his Arsenal career.
Giroud’s late return from the Euros and the lack of any other options forced Arsene Wenger’s hand. Wenger has always said that Sanchez has the qualities to play as a centre forward, and he feels that Sanchez is very similar to Luis Suarez in terms of his aggression and qualities – a striker that Wenger infamously tried to sign from Liverpool.
Arsenal fans who have grown weary of Giroud have wanted to see this shift in position for a while, and many thought that Sanchez could be Arsenal’s Aguero, with even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saying he could see the similarities between the two. This season, though, the Chilean is outshining his Argentinian counterpart in that position.
Sanchez beat hazard in the wide forward debate and now moved up to the striker position to debate Aguero.
He’s the McGregor of football.
— Mo_AFC (@Arsenal89_Mo) December 6, 2016
Sanchez has 13 goals and 7 assists in just 19 starts and 1 substitute appearance this season, while Aguero has scored 13 goals and registered just 1 assist in 15 starts and 2 substitute appearances. Aguero may be the better goalscorer, but Alexis Sanchez is showing that there is a lot more to his game than just scoring goals – just like Thierry Henry.
In his 376 appearances, Henry amassed 228 goals but also managed to notch up a very impressive 98 assists. There is no doubt that Henry was Arsenal’s main goalscoring threat, but he was equally adept at playing in his teammates after holding up the ball and creating space for them to run into.
Defenders wary of Henry would attempt to close him down before he shot or began one of his fast, jinking runs, and the space created by that would allow the likes of Pires and Ljungberg to ease into goalscoring positions, where Henry found them with immaculate technique.
Alexis Sanchez is having a similar effect for Arsenal as a centre forward. Sanchez is always full of energy, and is a lot more aggressive than Henry ever was. He loves to run at players, use his technique to explode into space and shoot, and can find the net from anywhere around the D.
A certain Frenchman was renowned for those traits too. Sanchez is also key to Arsenal’s build up play in terms of his passing and movement, just like Thierry Henry was. Sanchez has brilliant vision – a quality of his that is underrated by many – and is as happy to create goals as he is to score them.
Henry might have been a better player, and a more gifted forward, but Sanchez is coming close to the Frenchman’s level – although Henry managed it for 8 years with Arsenal and Sanchez is in his first season as first choice striker.
This season, Sanchez is averaging a very impressive 2.5 key passes per game and 2.6 successful dribbles per game. His record of 13 goals in 19 starts is nothing to sniff at, but he is turning into the complete forward for Arsenal – the likes of which they have not had since Robin van Persie departed for Manchester United.
Wenger has a good record of converting wide forwards into centre forwards, as we have seen with Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, and now Sanchez. It seems his latest experiment is an unequivocal success, if Sanchez’s brilliant form so far is anything to go by.
Wenger has said many times that Alexis Sanchez refuses to be benched, never admits he is tired and is always angry when he is told to rest or come off the pitch. Sanchez has stormed down the tunnel in the past when substituted, but this is not a reaction meant to disrespect the manager – more a frustration at not being able to contribute on the pitch.
One only has to watch Sanchez play to see that he pushes himself to the absolute limit on the pitch, never hesitating to close opponents down and constantly running until the very end of the game. All of this shows that he is a player willing to give his all for his club.
His attitude towards his teammates – never disparaging and always looking to synergise – is refreshing given that many players with his ability tend to have a chip on their shoulder. Sanchez is not only turning into a player that is having the same kind of effect that Henry had, but he is also slowly turning into the kind of character that Henry was.
The only thing left for Sanchez to do is propel Arsenal to the league title, and the transformation will be complete.