To be brutally honest, it'd be a crime if Alexis Sánchez was not involved in Arsenal's Team of the Season.
26 goals and twelve assists, coupled with 79 chances created [in the Premier League alone] that he has racked up in his first campaign in England, that's an impressive feat, no doubt about it. The 26-year-old is gradually starting to reach the peak of his powers and has joined a club that values both his contribution to the team, as well as understanding his importance to the side itself.
Arsenal's forward line, which is arguably their best position in terms of strength and depth, has been significantly improved by the red-hot Chilean international. His move to The Emirates was completed for a transfer fee of £30million pounds last July from La Liga champions Barcelona, who have coincidentally tonight clinched the treble with a 3-1 Champions League final victory over Serie A winners Juventus. That in itself, was a huge signal of intent to the rest of the league, as well as Arsenal's potential rivals in Europe. After a few transfer windows plagued by supporters' frustrations at the lack of world-class signings over the past few years, signing Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez in consecutive summers, is quite a way to announce yourself among the best once more.
Long gone are the days filled with nostalgia as fans watch and admire the sheer brilliance up-top between Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, who looked so silky and too good together in the Red of Arsenal, just a decade ago. Sánchez is the livewire that fans want to see perform week-in, week-out, and he does so with relative ease, because he's enjoying it all. His abilities and talents are endless, as he boasts attacking flair, blistering speed, clinical goal-scoring ability, quick attacking movement as well as a role where he creates chances out of seemingly nothing to name but a few.
Having been injured for a month-and-a-half with a troublesome knee injury, as well as reports suggesting he'd struggle to settle in England with the rigours of the Christmas period going to "catch up to him", Sánchez proved his critics wrong and avoided burnout, instead flourishing when Arsenal needed him most, especially when it was least expected. That is just one of numerous reasons as to why he's a world-class player, who the Gunners should use as an example to aspire to sign more in the not-too-distant future, at least, if they want to challenge for the biggest titles - which have eluded them thus far since the Invincibles season ten years back.
Sanchez had this to say, back in April: "I can adapt well to anything as long as I play football; it's my passion and I am happy as long as I chase a ball. I'm well adapted to the country and the league. I must keep on learning, though. I want to expand my knowledge of English football in general and Arsenal and my team-mates in particular, but overall I love this league. At the end of the day, football was invented in this country, right? I live where football was invented - that makes me really happy."
quotes via Bleacher Report
At Barcelona, he was not the main man, which is to be expected with arguably the greatest player of all-time, Lionel Messi, leading the Barça frontline and continuing to flourish, as he has done for the majority of his illustrious career, despite only being 27. Sánchez, despite not being the club-record signing (Özil, £42.5m), is quite clearly the club's best player, and he thrives under having the title, as well as the pressure of being one of the team's most integral cogs in Wenger's working machine.
Even now, if he'd stayed in La Liga with Luis Enrique's men, who are doing well for themselves, it must be stressed, he'd only be on the fringes of the first-team, just as Pedro Rodríguez is currently; with the formidable trio of Messi, Suárez and Neymar causing havoc for plenty of European defences this season.
Key goals in his debut campaign at Arsenal:
- His first in a Gunners shirt, their UEFA Champions League play-off fixture with Turkish side Besiktas at the Emirates. It wasn't the best, quality-wise, but who doesn't remember scoring their first goal for a new club, especially as Arsenal needed it most with the scores level at 0-0 from a tough away leg.
- A sumptuous strike past Joe Hart, with a half-volley strike into the corner of the net against Manchester City, in September. His third goal in three games, and what a finish indeed!
- His brace against Burnley at the start of November, where he could have easily had three or four... including a solo run and finish, weaving his way past the Burnley backline with relative ease as the Gunners supporters roared him on down the byline, before he cut inside the area and scored.
- Various free-kicks, against the likes of Anderlecht, Southampton and Hull City. When the opposition concede a free-kick, Arsenal have a wealth of impressive options to choose from, to take the set-piece itself, with both Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil more than capable of scoring, or creating a chance from distance.
- Another memorable performance, on the big occasion too at Wembley. FA Cup semi-final against heavily fancied underdogs, Reading, and Alexis created havoc throughout the 90 minutes in an eye-catching display which just reiterated his importance to the team. Not to mention, he scored a brace, to send Wenger's men to their second successive final in the space of two years, but there you go. Adam Federici, look away now.
- Arguably his best yet, a long-range strike to help sink Aston Villa in last weekend's FA Cup final. Arsenal were already ahead, and as soon as the ball sat up nicely for Sánchez to strike, he motioned to hit the shot and you just had the feeling it was going to cannon into the back of the net. Within a blink of an eye, it crashed off the underside of the crossbar, past a helpless Shay Given. Superb.
Alexis will undoubtedly continue to get better with the Gunners, and next season, Arséne Wenger's men will be hoping for more glory. If they stay consistent, relatively injury-free, and have a successful transfer window this summer, there is no reason as to why Arsenal will not mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title, especially with the likes of Sánchez in their ranks.