After a turbulent 2016/17 season at Arsenal for the Chilean international, Alexis Sanchez’ future looks to be in limbo. It was clear to see that the winger became increasingly unsettled as the Gunners trailed to a disappointing fifth place finish – their worst in 21 years.
The 28-year-old still has another year on his contract with Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger could be concerned about the prospect of Sanchez leaving the club for free at the end of the forthcoming season.
For this reason, a move to another club could be on the cards, with Manchester City being the most likely destination after hesitation from Bayern Munich due to extravagant wage demands. On top of this, City may be looking to act with haste with a possibility of a transfer ban looming.
Probably the most likely and fitting candidate for Sanchez’s replacement is Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian released a statement a few days ago that he wants to leave the Foxes with a desire to play in the Champions League.
Although Arsenal will not take part in the competition this season, Mahrez could be an important addition to a team hoping to return to the top four of the Premier League, especially following a record £52 million signing that has brought Alexandre Lacazette to the Emirates.
Mahrez was a key part of Leicester City’s fairy-tale season of 2015/16, and earned himself the PFA Player of the Year award. Although this success was not repeated the season after, Mahrez played a significant role as Leicester carried out an impressive run in the Champions League, reaching the quarter-final and eventually being knocked out by Atletico Madrid.
Therefore, the 26-year-old has experience in a European competition and, despite not reaching the heights of the Premier League title last season, still showed excellent skill in both the domestic competitions and the Champions League. This is an attractive quality that could warrant a hefty bid from Arsenal.
Riyad Mahrez has been able to present his impressive talent to the world in the last two years and the most predominant attributes in his skill set are dazzling ball control and the ability to pick out a key pass. Both would be put to good use in the quick counter attacking play and fast-paced team goals that Arsenal are one of the best in the world at displaying, and both are qualities that may be missed if Alexis Sanchez were to depart.
With Lacazette now at the Emirates, Mahrez would add to the spring of attacking pace that Arsenal have been attributed to many times in the last two decades. Mahrez’s ability to beat a defender, cross the ball into a dangerous position, or play a through ball for a pacey striker to latch on to would present Arsenal with several attacking options, with Lacazette undoubtedly able to finish off these attacks. Mahrez would bring a fresh attitude to the Arsenal team having been part of a team that perhaps had to work a little harder to achieve the impossible. Would he fill Alexis Sanchez’ boots?
That’s a question that could split Arsenal fans, but the Algerian has certainly shown extraordinary skill in the past two seasons that combining that with the stewardship of Arsenal stalwart Arsene Wenger could produce some spectacular attacking performances. Could Mahrez contribute to the quest for a league title in Wenger’s likely penultimate season? Only time will tell.
Written by Harry Mahon.