Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez Should Not Be Considered Player of the Year Material

Alexis Sanchez isn’t your archetypal Arsenal player. Sure, the Chilean is technically adept and dynamic on the ball, but while the Gunners are comprised of considered football-thinkers, Sanchez is restless and instinctive, at times irrepressible. 

More than any other player to have arrived at the Emirates Stadium in recent years, Sanchez has changed Arsenal. They are a different team with the Chilean included, and he deserves a significant share of the credit for how the Gunners’ season—for all its peaks and troughs—has eventually turned out.

Arsenal look on course for a second-place finish in the Premier League this season, having won 11 of their last 12 fixtures. Such an outcome seemed most unlikely just a few weeks ago, when the Gunners were scrambling for a top-four finish—and yet there is something assured, almost fated, about the way Arsene Wenger’s side have finished the season.

And so many have looked to Arsenal for Player of the Year candidates, with the PFA’s shortlist for this season set to be announced on Friday. After all, it’s been nearly six years since the PFA Players’ Player of the Year came from the Premier League-winning side, so there’s certainly no guarantee this season’s will be a Chelsea player.

Given the impact Sanchez has made in his debut Premier League season it’s to be expected that so many would name the Chilean as a contender for the end of campaign individual silverware. After all, he is one of the best players in the division. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves to be named Player of the Year. 

The Chilean is exactly what Arsenal needed. Both he and Danny Welbeck—signed on transfer deadline day for £16 million—have given the Gunners a lightning-quick threat on the counter-attack, something they desperately lacked with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain prone to lengthy absences through injury.

It’s almost as if Wenger had a plan all along. In Olivier Giroud he has the Premier League’s best out-and-out front man, and now he has the talent to flank him while making the best of Arsenal’s impressive midfield threat too. Sanchez now finds himself central to the Gunners’ very identity as a football team.

“If you look at the qualities, efficiency, work-rate, fighting spirit—[he is at the] top,” said the Arsenal boss earlier this season, as per ESPN FC. “When [the game] becomes flat, he can revitalise the strengths and dynamics of the team and the supporters.”

Had Sanchez projected his form over the first half of the season across the entire campaign then he would be a certain for the Premier League and PFA’s Player of the Year awards. Between September and Christmas the Chilean scored 11 goals and contributed five assists in just 18 appearances, illustrating the profound impact he made early on in his Arsenal career.

But Sanchez’s form has tailed off since the turn of the year, with the Chilean scoring just oncein the 4-1 demolition of Arsenalin his last 16 appearances for Arsenal. It’s a peculiar quirk that the Gunners’ form has picked up as their best player’s has dipped, but the overall inconsistency of Sanchez’s season is why he shouldn’t pick up the Player of the Year award. 

“He had not the same intensity as he had until now,” explained Wenger following an especially low-key performance by Sanchez against Leicester City in February, as per BBC Sport. “I’m not sure he was free in his head to sprint as he used to. I don’t know if it was down to the kick he got on his knee, but he was not himself.”

Indeed, Sanchez was not himself for quite some time in the new year, only recovering his form in the statement win over Liverpool earlier this month. So impressive was his start to the campaign his nomination for Player of the Year is still warranted, but the prize itself should go to someone else.

Harry Kane, for one, has enjoyed a more consistently brilliant season than Sanchez, with the Spurs striker scoring 19 goals in just 22 Premier League starting appearances this season. Eden Hazard too has charted a steadier record over the course of the season, lodging what has been his best Premier League campaign to date.

Then there’s David De Gea, who has a strong claim as English football’s most valuable player. Manchester United would be much worse off in the league table—maybe even outside the top fourwere it not for their Spanish shot-stopper.

Those threeDe Gea, Hazard and Kaneshould be the front-runners for this season’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, with Sanchez and the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero and Philippe Coutinho warranting honourable mentions.

Of course, this should not be taken as a comment on Sanchez’s ability as a player, but merely on the season he has played. In fact, his debut season in the Premier League should be taken as something of a watershed moment for the Gunners.

The signing of Sanchez last summer for £35 million from Barcelona represented a continuation of Arsenal’s reformed transfer strategywhich started with the club record capture of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid the summer previous. The Emirates Stadiumperhaps for the first timeis now seen as a viable destination for European football’s brightest and best talent.

In that sense Sanchez’s arrival at Arsenal last summer was important, not just from a tactical and footballing standpoint, but for the stature of the club as well. The Chilean might have been surplus at Barcelona, but he is still one of the finest attackers in the European gameand Arsenal were able to woo him.

Thus Arsenal will now find it easier to attract further top-tier talents in the transfer market, with both Ozil and Sanchez providing precedentparticularly with the latter performing to such a high level. But nonetheless, the Chilean shouldn’t go down as the 2014/15 Player of the Year. Player of part of the year, perhaps, but not for the entire season.

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