• Premier League

Sanchez is not the answer for Arsenal

James Dall | ESPN FC
July 23, 2014
Alexis Sanchez will still prove a sublime addition to Arsene Wenger's squad - but the Frenchman must add more © Getty Images

Arsenal's signing of Alexis Sanchez is only part of the solution. His arrival from Barcelona, for a reported fee of £35 million, confirmed that last summer's £42m splurge on Mesut Ozil was not a one-off and the club have shaken free from the financial restraints that came with moving from Highbury to Emirates Stadium.

Make no mistake, Sanchez is a sublime addition and will be an asset to Arsene Wenger's side. He is a fast, powerful and direct attacking player, weapons that were missing when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spent time on the sidelines during the past season. Indeed, the performances of Ozil, a threader of through balls, dipped when he did not have runners to find.

However, it does not appear that Sanchez is the answer to Arsenal's striking problems. During the 2013/14 season, Wenger relied too heavily on Olivier Giroud, a good and improving centre-forward but not a brilliant one. Despite a return of 16 Premier League goals in the latest campaign, Giroud lacked consistency over the course of his 36 appearances.

That he missed just two top-flight matches is in part to blame for his wanes; the Frenchman was, at times, running - which is being generous - on empty. Wenger acknowledged as such in May: "Maybe we have overplayed him at some stage. There is perhaps room for an attacking player who can play in a different position to Giroud - someone who can play with him as well."

And so, he moved for Sanchez - scorer of 39 goals in 88 Barca appearances - a similar attacking talent to Luis Suarez, formerly of Liverpool but now of Barcelona, but without the risk he might do something unsavoury.

Rightfully delighted with his acquisition, Wenger said, "He can play through the middle ... we can play without Giroud in a 4-4-2 or in a 4-3-3." Yet in these words some Arsenal fans might find cause for concern.

Despite the fact it is still only July - the transfer window closes September 1 - does Wenger consider Sanchez and Giroud sufficient in terms of his striker selection? The answer to that question emerged on Monday, when Wenger was quoted thus: "Up front we don't need any more."

The issue remains: If Giroud sustains a long-term injury, would the French coach be confident Sanchez could deputise as the lone striker during his debut season in the Premier League? Giroud, in spite of his critics, works the position well, holds up play and feeds others with his back to goal; Sanchez may struggle in this regard.

As Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny said in June, "Yes, we need to recruit a very, very good striker, because it's important for us for competition for places, because Olivier needs that to become even better."

Mikel Arteta has adapted to the defensive midfield role but is not a long-term solution © PA Photos

Giroud himself added: "We need another striker. Great clubs have several good strikers, who compete with each other."

Maybe Theo Walcott, when he returns from his serious knee injury, will see this as the season he really makes a go of becoming a centre-forward, but there remain questions over his suitability for Wenger's system of one up top. Plus, regardless of Walcott's ambitions, he seems to play better when out wide, moving out from in.

Wenger will hope Yaya Sanogo, the 21 year old signed from Auxerre, continues his development. Sanogo, though, has yet to make a Premier League start for Arsenal, let alone score a goal for the club, in his 14 appearances in all competitions in the latest campaign.

The Frenchman seems to have the raw materials but raw is the operative word right now and at times last term he resembled a tractor without a steering wheel.

As Nicklas Bendtner finally departs, Joel Campbell returns. Loaned out for three consecutive seasons, the 22 year old impressed sufficiently at the 2014 World Cup with Costa Rica to earn him a chance to stake his claim for a role with the Arsenal first team during pres-eason. "He is maturing well," Wenger said of Campbell, who - though more polished than Sanogo - would again be a gamble if given a role as Giroud's backup.

If reports are to be believed, Arsenal have been in the market for a striker. Yet, Loic Remy looks set for Liverpool, Alvaro Morata has joined Juventus and Mario Mandzukic has moved to Atletico Madrid. AC Milan's Mario Balotelli was mooted as a target during the World Cup, but the rumour mill has ground to something of a halt on that alleged pursuit.

"It's not over, there's still a long way to go," Wenger said of his transfer activity on Saturday. He has brought in right-back Mathieu Debuchy as well as Sanchez. If speculation is to be trusted, Wenger finally intends to address the issue of a natural defensive midfielder, with Real Madrid's Sami Khedira [whose wages are seemingly too high] Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin and Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho all having been linked.

There lies the root of the worry: the holding midfield position is one that has not been addressed since 2008. In the space of six months, Arsenal lost Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini and Lassana Diarra. Instead, in 2011, Wenger moved for Mikel Arteta from Everton on the final day of the transfer window and forced a square peg into a round hole. Arteta has admittedly grown into that role over time but this fudging of the issue has resonance with the current striking options.

Perhaps, as demonstrated by the transfer business executed earlier in the transfer window coupled with the calibre of the two signings secured, Wenger still intends to give Giroud competition. In January, the Arsenal boss was unmoved in the transfer market - Kim Kallstrom aside - and the price was paid in their pursuit of the title. There can be no regrets this time around.

This article originally appeared on ESPN FC

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