The “will he/won’t he” saga, which has plagued Arsenal for the last year finally looks to be reaching a conclusion.
It’s not, for once, whether Arsene Wenger will stay at the end of his contract. Instead, it’s one of his players. Alexis Sanchez’s future looks to be anywhere but at Emirates Stadium.
With the Chilean’s contract up at the end of the season, January represents Arsenal’s last chance to receive a fee for the wantaway forward, who has made it clear he has no intention of inking a new agreement with his current employer.
A Manchester City transfer target since last season, it seems inevitable the 29-year-old will be reunited with Pep Guardiola, his former coach at Barcelona.
But there’s just one problem. With the embarrassment of attacking riches available to the City coach, how does he fit Sanchez into his starting XI? Our friends at Football Whispers have come up with three options.
Option one: 4-3-3
Guardiola’s preferred system, despite a brief flirtation with 3-1-4-2 at the start of the season, is 4-3-3. It is the formation which brought him unprecedented success at Barcelona during his all-conquering four-year stint at the Camp Nou and looks set to usher in a similar era of dominance at City.
With Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus vying to lead the line, Sanchez would be forced to play wide. But the Gunners forward has performed that role to great effect for Arsenal before moving into the center, and it was there he played for Guardiola while at Barca.
The obvious drawback would be dropping one of the electric pairing of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling from the starting XI to accommodate Sanchez. Sterling, in particular, has thrived under Guardiola and has already surpassed his best goal tally for a season by reaching 18 in all competitions already — 14 of those in the Premier League.
However, the benefit is it would leave Player of the Year-elect Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva to play their natural game in midfield where they have both reached another level this season.
Option two: 4-3-1-2
Guardiola has switched to a two-striker system in order to put Aguero and Jesus on the field at the same time on a handful of occasions this season. There’s a suggestion the two can’t co-exist together at Etihad Stadium unless they’re partnered, as both are too good to be benched regularly.
Adding Sanchez to the equation, therefore, would only serve to complicate matters. However, playing two forwards and Sanchez at No.10 would satisfy all and give City one of the most devastating forward lines the Premier League has ever seen.
It wouldn’t work for most clubs, especially with the aforementioned De Bruyne and Silva playing attack-minded roles in midfield, but City’s dominance on the ball makes it the one top-flight team who wouldn’t be inviting trouble with such a gung-ho setup.
The drawback would, again, be sacrificing one, if not both, of Sane and Sterling. For the time being, though, Jesus’ injury layoff would enable Sanchez to play alongside Aguero. That would leave the No.10 spot open for Sterling.
Option three: 3-4-2-1
A system not seen since the opening weeks of the season when Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy patrolled the flanks for City, this would give Guardiola options dependent on the situation or opponent.
In a game where City expects to dominate (most likely at Etihad Stadium), the Catalan coach could use Sane and Sterling in the wide roles and have De Bruyne alongside Fernandinho in the center of midfield.
The two spots behind the striker would be occupied by Sanchez and Silva with Aguero or Jesus, when fit again, up front.
However, in games where a more measured approach was necessary, Guardiola could bring Walker and Danilo — in place of the injury-stricken Mendy — into the side as more conventional wing-backs to stiffen things up. Not that either can be described as defense-first full-backs.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/NBC Sports
Powered by WordPress.com VIP