The news became official Thursday evening London time, with Arsenal turning a weeks’ long rumor into fact. Alexis Sánchez, Chile’s best player at the 2014 World Cup, has completed his move from Barcelona, becoming the Gunners’ second major grab from La Liga in as many summers.
Last year, Arsenal made a major splash by picking up German midfielder Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. Though Sánchez’s fee is as yet undisclosed, its’ likely to end up in the neighborhood of $51.4 million (£30 million), a fee that will prove Arsène Wenger’s 2013 splurge was no isolated incident.
In bringing in the 25-year-old forward, the Arsenal boss has found some much-needed help for forward Olivier Giroud up top.
“Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks,” Wenger said, via the club’s website. “He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad.”
Sánchez, who scored twice in four games for Chile at Brazil 2014, is coming off the best of his three seasons in Barcelona, scoring 19 goals in 34 league games as the Blaugrana finished second in La Liga. He leaves Catalonia with 47 goals in 141 all-competition appearances since leaving Udinese in 2011.
“I’m so happy to be joining Arsenal,” Sánchez said, “a club which has a great manager, a fantastic squad of players, huge support around the world and a great stadium in London. I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates and to be playing for Arsenal in the Premier League and Champions League.”
With his arrival, Sánchez provides some desperately needed depth for a team that was overly dependent on Giroud. While the Frenchman led the team with 16 league goals, he was one of only two players to reach double-digits for the club. The only other natural center forward to score during the Premier League season was Nicklas Bendtner, whose nine appearances (one start) produced only two goals.
At times relying on Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott at the top of their 4-2-3-1, Arsenal’s lack of depth at striker was a factor as the team receded from the 2013-14 title race. Only 5’7”, Sánchez has evolved from the wide-to-in threat he posed at Udinese, proving capable of playing along the defense as well as from the flank.
At Arsenal, he’ll likely be asked to do both. When Giroud doesn’t get the call up top, Sánchez will be Wenger’s obvious choice to start. However, when match ups call for more typical number nine to lead the Gunners’ attack, Sánchez will be capable of excelling elsewhere in Arsenal’s starting XI.