I'm pleased I got to ask you some questions in the end, I am guessing you are not quite so thrilled. You see readers, A few weeks ago when the rumours of Sanchez possible departure started to surface I asked @iason1 if he'd answer some questions if Alexis Sanchez ended up at the better half of North London. It looks like Wenger has worked his magic so @iason1 is here to give us a little insight into the talented Chilean.
Thank you for agreeing to this and before we get onto the nitty gritty would you mind telling us how long you've been an FC Barcelona supporter and how it all started for you?
I've only been supporting my beloved club since 2006! Up until that point, I had only really watched club football sporadically. I was mainly interested in international tournaments (Greece's success in 2004 is basically what ignited my interest in watching the sport). One day, some of my Catalan cousins sat me down to watch a few Barcelona matches. I fell in love with Ronaldinho first, followed him during the 2006 World Cup, and decided that I needed to see him all the time. The rest is history, I suppose.
Are you excited about the capture of Luis 'bitey' Suarez?
Ha! I don't like him. And not just for the big screw-ups he's had, but for his overall crappy attitude in every game. Blatantly diving, complaining about every single call by the ref, stirring up the opposition, etc. That being said, I don't have to like him to be excited by him. Barca need a number 9.
Sure, if I had it my way, we'd be going after strikers with different profiles (think Dzeko-esque players), but a striker is a striker. Barcelona haven't had one since 2010, and I'm not about to get picky, considering we're getting a top 3 (center forward, not overall player).
Cesc Fabregas or Alexis Sanchez. Which player's departure will be felt the most by fans and your team? And what are the reasons for your choice.
Alexis Sanchez, obviously. I could go on and on about Fabregas, his purchase/departure, his attitude, the implications of his purchase, his ugly rat face etc and so on, but I'll just keep it very short.
Nobody that I talked to was really depressed about Fabregas leaving. Sure, some people were justifiably angry over the selling price, but I think most fans were happy to see the back of him. Again, I can go on all day why and how Cesc struggled, but at the end of the day, he simply didn't fit our system. He was NEVER the Xavi heir. Poor second half of seasons, combined with disappearing during big matches meant that by the end of last season, many fans were ready to see him go.
Alexis is a player who has always had it hard here. He was bought in the same summer as Cesc. He was less known, less talked about, not as highly rated, yet he was basically as expensive as the ex-Gooner. He showed flashes of brilliance in his first few games, and then he got injured. He came back, looked okay, and then got injured again. This was basically the story for two seasons.
Then last season, I don't think he suffered a single bad injury (don't quote me on that). His confidence shot up, and guess what? So did his finishing! He actually became clinical. And he started dribbling consistently again. He was easily one of Barca's best players last season. He was still stuck out wide in a tough role for any player, yet he thrived.
I am not happy to see him go. Especially because Pedro isn't half the player and yet he's considered vital. I don't know of any Barca fan who's happy that we're selling him.
Are you happy about swapping Cesc for Rakitic?
Yes. Rakitic maybe isn't as inherently talented, but he can be better for Barca. He is physically superior and more versatile, so I can see him expanding Barca's game more. Cesc can only ever be truly great for Barca as a number 10. I think this is a very solid move on our part, because the worst case scenario is basically Rakitic playing as badly as Cesc, and he's only half the price. Also, this move opens the door to young talents like Rafinha and Denis Suarez.
Fans who think we're downgrading here are focusing too much on name and reputation. I am confident that Rakitic will serve us better.
Looking at Sanchez's goals and assists numbers last season it seems a tad on the harsh side that he is getting pushed out the door at Barcelona. Why do you think he is one of the selected few to get the chop?
He's getting the boot because we need money for Suarez. Would I prefer keeping Sanchez and buying a cheaper CF like Mandzukic? Yeah. But the board (and probably the coach too) want Suarez. Pedro likely wouldn't get us more than 25M, and there's no one else to sell now that Cesc is already gone.
All that being said, I do get a sense that he's simply not rated that highly here.
Probably a mixture of La Masia bias, and Sanchez not possessing the typical Barca mindset of "keep possession and take no risks." Whatever it is, there have been rumours of his departure every summer since his arrival. Sanchez probably could have left any time, but chose to stay and fight. I assume the Suarez chase and the return of Deulofeu convinced him it was time to leave, especially because he's no longer a little kid who can afford to patiently wait for a chance to be the star.
What would you say are his best qualities and how do you think he will fit in at Arsenal and indeed English football.
Alexis is one of the most intelligent "movers" I've seen. He has great vision to find space and exploit it, but what's even more impressive, is that he creates. I know you've posted on twitter the youtube video of Alexis moving off the ball and dragging defenders around to create space, so you know what I'm talking about.
Even though he is not at all an out and out striker, he times his runs into the box like one. Most of his goals last season looked like simple tap ins, but they were possible because he executed his runs perfectly. He's also improved his finishing and he no longer hesitates in the box.
Every Barca fan I know is in love with his turns. Receive a pass with his back to goal, maybe feint once, twice, thrice, and then turn past whoever was trying to mark him. Whether it's in the middle of the pitch to initiate a counter attack, or stuck out wide surrounded by multiple players, when Sanchez has the ball under control and his back facing the defenders, I always feel confident he will come away on top.
His intelligent movement and high energy style will mentally and physically exhaust defenders next season. He is a creator, and I see Giroud and Walcott combining well with him as he creates space for them. Also, I think Giroud's little flicks to runners that he likes to do will really suit Sanchez. After a period of adapting, I can see those two playing well off of each other. Additionally, Podolski will have another target in the box to cross to. Then there's obviously Özil, who will love another attacker who consistently makes penetrative runs.
In the EPL, there is usually an abundance of space to be found between the defense and midfield. It's why diminutive attacking midfielder's who people thought were too small and weak to play the English game have thrived. I expect similar from Sanchez, if he's given that role. It may take him some time to adapt, but I do think Gooners will quickly fall in love with his crazy high energy style that so typifies today's Chile.
What are his weaknesses? How could he improve further?
Alexis used to be a very injury prone player, but he seems to be over that (I don't want to jinx it though, considering his future club is Arsenal :P).
He tends to lose the ball a bit too much. Although that is only in comparison to the other Barca players. If he's given a more free role, playing in the EPL, I don't think it will be a problem.
His main problem by far is his first touch. It's not good. After Tello, he probably has the worst first touch at Barca. It's usually the reason he loses the ball so frequently. It also means he struggles in quick one touch passing, give and goes, and can actually slow down attacks at times. Arguably most importantly though, he never carries the ball inside with his first touch and gets himself into scoring positions, which is something Pedro particularly excels at:
Other small problems are that he doesn't really have a left foot, he can struggle a bit as a left winger, he dives a little bit, and he generally is ineffective against low block defensive teams (although playing alongside Giroud would help a lot in those situations).
What do you think is his best position? Also do you think he could play as a lone centre forward in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3?
He is definitely best in a free-ish role behind or just to the right of a striker. I don't know if Wenger will play him there since he has Özil, but I would. Even if it means Özil on the wing.
I know a lot of Gooners are talking about him as the new striker, but that's not how I see it. He can be an emergency option there, sure, but he's not an out and out striker. He's played there maybe 4 or 5 times in three years at Barca. He's a creator first and foremost, and he needs freedom to roam and come to the ball. Unless you plan on using him in a false 9 system (I don't recommend it!), the best position for Sanchez is as a right winger or the "10" in the 4-2-3-1. I can see Sanchez and Giroud enjoying each other's company on the field, not fighting each other for one position.
Finally, from a neutral view point do you think Arsenal have the quality to push for a league title this season?
I'm not sure you have the depth in defense and midfield, but there is still time in the market. Your starting 11 is good though. I don't see Ramsey-Arteta; Ozil-Sanchez-Podolski; Giroud really struggling against any team. Having a RB who provides a consistent overlap makes it easier to play Özil on the wing, Ramsey can still go further, Giroud and Podolski aren't awesome but they are functional, and Sanchez provides the extra star quality and energy to elevate your team.
IF Wenger manages to get the very best out of Sanchez, then you should be optimistic. With more luck regarding injuries, you can win titles. But with Chelsea upgrading massively, and Man Utd probably returning to the top with LVG, it will be even harder than last season. Good luck :).
Thank you once again for giving up your free time for this, I am sure Arsenal supporters will appreciate it. You can follow @iason1 on Twitter. Insightful and well worth a follow.