Players to watch in 2014/15: Alexis Sanchez & Arsenal’s attacking-midfield quartet

Alexis Sanchez is one of the most expensive transfers completed by a Premier League club this Summer, so it goes without saying that he will be a player of interest this season.

Sanchez isn’t ‘one to watch’ because of his ability or his fee, though, rather it’s the logistics of how he’ll be used which are intriguing.

The Chilean’s best - or most productive - position during his time at Barcelona was as a right-sided wide-forward and accommodating him in that role at Arsenal would involve Arsene Wenger moving some of his existing pieces around.

Theo Walcott has not yet recovered from the injury which kept him out of the World Cup, so Sanchez will presumably default into his position during the early weeks of the season.  Walcott is predicted to be back in full-training by the end of August which, at a guess, means that he’ll probably be available for selection from the middle of September onwards - so for those first few weeks those supporting positions are likely to be occupied by Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Santi Cazorla.

Wenger has revealed that Ozil, like his fellow German World Cup-winners, will not be fully-fit for Crystal Palace at home on the 16th August.  That is a conditioning issue rather than an actual injury problem, though, so it’s safe to assume that he will be in the line-up by the time Arsenal travel to Goodison Park a week later.

So what happens if that unit develops immediate chemistry?  What Arsenal essentially have in that area of the pitch is four players who consider themselves automatic selections; Ozil is obviously going to start, Sanchez hasn’t been bought to sit on the substitutes’ bench, and neither Cazorla nor Walcott would consider themselves ‘back-up’.

Premier League football is a squad game now and the idea of a first-eleven is quite antiquated.  Players are used on a fixture-by-fixture basis and teams are selected depending on the opposition, but within most squads there still remains a tier system and it will be really interesting to see which of those Arsenal players ends up in which bracket.  At clubs like Chelsea, where there are a lot of attacking players competing for positions, there is a very obvious hierarchy and a clear difference in status between someone like Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle. Rotation may be commonplace now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that managers go into every game with a blank teamsheet.

So the question is, as and when Arsenal face those top-four sides in the marquee games, who will be preferred and what impact will that have on whoever is left out?

This is undoubtedly a good problem to have, but it’s still a balancing act and it’s still something to keep an eye on - and there are myriad sub-plots, too: Is Sanchez going to used different to how he was at Camp Nou?  Will Theo Walcott have to move sides in order to get back into this team?  How will the addition of Sanchez alter the progression of someone like Serge Gnabry and the other developing players at the club?

It’s all very interesting.

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