by Mosope Ominiyi

July 10th, 2014 – I remember that day like it was just yesterday and yet, it was a year ago today to be exact.

For those of you that are not aware, this was the fateful day in which Alexis Sánchez signed for the mighty Gunners. A transfer fee reported to be between £30-35million pounds from Barcelona, the Chilean winger rejected the advances of Liverpool and Juventus amongst plenty of other suitors to join the London club.

It was clear from that day onwards, Arsenal were moving forwards. Of course, that’s not to say that we’ve been moving backwards. On the contrary, we’ve been gradually improving year-upon-year, but ultimately at the end of it all, it seems we come to the same conclusion every term. Consistency at the end of the season, after periods of inconsistency at the start. The phrase “topsy-turvy” has been used on a number of occasions to describe how Arsenal’s respective seasons have gone, because although we’ve got the talent at our disposal, it’s frustrating to see it not being utilised correctly.

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez in training (via Google)

Alexis signing for the club was a signal of intent, that Arséne Wenger was not interested in mediocre players. Instead, he wanted to target world-class stars that would help mount a proper title challenge, as well as fighting for respective domestic cups too. Mesut Ozil’s signing on transfer deadline day in September of 2013 was a record-breaking transfer deal, and although it was treated with surprise and intrigue, the silky German has done nothing but impress, despite critics suggesting otherwise.

The UEFA Champions League, has eluded Arsenal. That memorable night at the Stade de Paris nine years ago is still fresh in the memory – Arsenal took the lead but two goals late in the second-half gave La Liga champions Barcelona the Champions League crown. Agony. Frustration. Disappointment.

You’d most probably be lying if you’re a self-professed Arsenal fan and you have not gone through the aforementioned emotions at some stage in your life. With that being said though, the signing of the talented forward showed massive progress. Not just because he was bought from arguably the best team in the world, but it proved that Arsenal not only have the financial power, but also the pulling factor in terms of enticing players to join their squad ranks.

A hard-working, immensely talented individual

It’s been obvious from a young age that Alexis is a talented individual. Back in his Udinese days, he developed a fast-growing attacking partnership with Antonio di Natale, leading the Serie A side’s frontline. It’s fair to say they combined well together, tallying 39 goals in the league season between them. Not only that, but the sheer fact they created chances galore for each other as well as their other team-mates, the Little Zebras were impressing plenty of sides in Europe.

In turn, that attracted interest from who else, but Barcelona. They snapped him up for €25million euros (plus add-ons) and although it was clear he was never going to be as highly rated as Lionel Messi; whom is highly regarded as the best player ever, he was utilised effectively and did his reputation justice as he won five trophies during his three-year tenure, including the La Liga and Copa del Rey (both once).

Despite doing himself justice with consistent displays and effective performances when called upon, Sánchez was never truly the main man at Barca. If he was, he’d probably still be there no doubt – and yet, he opted for a move to the Premier League, which is widely viewed as being the most competitive league in the world.

So, you’d expect him to take time to settle into his new surroundings, correct? No. In the league alone, he recorded 71 key passes, created 79 chances and scored 16 goals. Not to mention all of the stats he tallied in the run up to their FA Cup triumph and his Champions League adventure, which was unfortunately ended by AS Monaco in the infamous ’round of 16′ curse.

His arrival was a surprise, and he’s taken the league by surprise in the way in which he handles himself on and off the pitch. Back home in Chile, he’s a national hero, and that’s backed up by the cheeky Panenka penalty which sealed his country’s first ever Copa América victory against Argentina in this month’s final.

Alexis Sanchez Arsenal
Alexis Sanchez (via Google)

Overall, he’s been a great signing for the Gunners. He consistently excites fans, and is one of those players you’d actively pay money to watch every week – he is so unpredictable in the way he glides past defensive markers and always poses a threat to opposition backlines is fascinating to watch. His quick turn of pace, excellent technical ability, close-control dribbling and a good eye for goal are just a few qualities that he possesses; all of which make him even more of a world-class player.

And in the final few months of the season, himself and Ozil have gradually started to develop an intriguing midfield-attack partnership between them. Many have already began comparisons to Dennis Berkgamp and Thierry Henry, which is probably very pre-mature, but nonetheless, considering they are the club’s two biggest signings, you’d expect them to gel together in tandem.

It’s exciting to watch him play every week, and for me, it still hasn’t sunk in that he plays for Arsenal. One of those players you’re grateful to be able to watch play at the highest level, because Sánchez truly is a pleasure to watch. If I tried to list his arsenal of weaponry in terms of skills, talents and overall quality that he possesses, I’d be here all day.

His fantastic long-range effort against Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, is probably the epitomy of my point today. I was watching the game with my dad, and as he took the first touch to push the ball ever so slightly in-front of him, I knew instinctively what he was going to do. No hesitation, he knew too, and punished a rather helpless Shay Given to devastating effect with his strike rifling into the top corner in some style. I would have screamed and celebrated like a mad man, if I didn’t expect that type of quality from him.

But with Alexis, nothing surprises me. His first year with the Gunners has been an impressive one, and that’s ignoring the fact he’s had a few injury niggles (one to two months of the season, in total). Whenever a crunching tackle goes flying in, I tend to wince. Not because I want to, but because I’m worried he might get injured, and we can’t have that. Especially not as he is such an integral part of an ever-improving Arsenal side.

Eden Hazard was voted as the PFA Player of the Year for the 2014/15 campaign, and really, he shouldn’t have won it in my opinion. It was a lazy pick from those with authority – he wouldn’t have won it if Chelsea hadn’t won the league itself. Nemanja Matic was more deserving than the talented Belgian, who is good, but not quite on the level as Sánchez. Why, you may ask to yourself? Because, he’s not as consistent, and does not perform particularly well against the bigger sides. One fantastic piece of skill & a goal then goes missing.

Either way, twelve months on, Sánchez has settled into the Arsenal side. It’s a treat to see him enjoying life, and I, being his biggest fan and all, thoroughly hope he gets the well-earned rest he deserves before the start of the season after his success with Chile. Thanks for a superb season, Alexis. Here’s to the next.

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Football writer. Objective reviews and analysis of European football. Lifelong Arsenal fan, youth football enthusiast.