Arsenal attacker is back to his best, and just at the right time…

Last season, Arsenal did an Arsenal and started badly. They started really badly. They started so badly that Danny Welbeck drew comparisons with Thierry Henry as he was the only Arsenal player to show up week after week. Well, Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez took to the Premier League like Arsene Wenger takes to silky attacking midfielders. He is simply made for the Premier League. He’s quick, sharp, skillful, stocky and strong, and has a dynamic haircut. He’s lethal on FIFA. He’s the kind of player everyone wants.

No one wants Ozil in their FIFA team – Ozil can’t shoot from distance, he can’t beat a man and he won’t just run through the defence when you hold the sprint button. All he can do is those poxy short passes you do in those five frustrating minutes of trying to be like Barcelona before you give up and stick on Yaya Toure and Paul Pogba.

No one wants Ozil, but Sanchez, Sanchez everyone wants. Even Arsene Wenger.

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If Wenger played FIFA I’d imagine him working meticulously on his short passing game, penning the opposition into their own half and getting his team to pass it around in an arc around the opposition’s 18-yard box. It would be the most boring game you’d ever watch, but it would be hilarious too – it would be hilarious watching Wenger get gradually more frustrated, as each time he lost the ball his opponent would break away and punish him on the counter. He’d rage quit before half time.

But even Wenger loves Sanchez. He’s the explosive spark in his team, that player who makes things happen, who runs in behind the defence and worries defenders with his pace. Or he picks the ball up from deep and worries defenders with his footwork, speed or just by his sheer directness. Or he simply standing in an attacking position and frightens the life out of the defenders by his very presence. He’s the ‘World Class’ player in Arsenal’s team of mere ‘Professionals’.

And so that’s why his less-than-World Class start to the season was worrying. In fact, it was worrying before that. It was worrying when he had to play a World Cup, and then an entire season for Arsenal, and then go off to the Copa America, and then come back and play for Arsenal again. Wenger managed it well, he gave the Chilean a few weeks’ grace to come back and recover before pulling on his Arsenal shirt again. But he wasn’t completely ready for the start of the season.

He didn’t hit the heights, and he was sluggish. He wasn’t awful, he just wasn’t as good as he had been. And it was perfectly understandable, he was beat. But he seems to be back.

Against Chelsea, Sanchez displayed one or two touches we’ve come to expect from him. Against Leicester, he almost looked back again. It’s just taken him some time to find his feet, but he might have found them again.

It’s a critical time for Arsenal. After two defeats in the Champions League, and two games against Bayern Munich coming up, and after defeat to Chelsea they now have Manchester United coming up at the weekend. It’s a crunch game, not just in terms of the season, but in terms of morale and form.

If Arsenal lose, not only does it mean they lose ground, but they lose yet another big, important game. The Gunners have had some sort of a mental block against big sides and big games over the past few seasons and have lost games when the pressure was on. This season they weren’t meant to have such mental problems, but this weekend is the test.

But now Arsenal have big players for these big tests, and it’s up to them to step up. Alexis Sanchez is one such big player, and if he’s well rested and if he’s found his explosivity, then he’ll be back to being the kind of player everyone wants in their FIFA team.

And if he’s back to that level, then he could be the difference between defeat this weekend – and a return to the questions of old – and a victory to re-establish Arsenal’s place in the title race.

 


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