Why an Alexis Sanchez-Sergio Agüero swap deal makes sense for Arsenal and Man City

Several English media outlets recently revealed that Sergio Agüero could possibly be traded to Arsenal in a swap deal for Alexis Sánchez. Sánchez’s current contract with Arsenal expires at the end of next season, and he has repeatedly expressed his frustration with Arsenal’s lackluster performances and underwhelming season. Sánchez is expected to deny any contract extensions that he is offered. Rather than risk losing him for free next season, Arsène Wenger may cash in on him this summer. Moreover, Pep Guardiola is a huge fan of Alexis Sánchez, and hopes to bring him to City. Guardiola might be willing to sacrifice Agüero to sign Sánchez, especially since the former has been left out of City’s starting lineup several times last season in favor of Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus.

Agüero and Sánchez are prolific, world class forwards and, at the age of 29 and 28 respectively, are at the peak of their powers. Both players are considered to be of equal caliber and have proven themselves in the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League over the course of multiple seasons. If both players were to switch clubs, it is very likely that both players will quickly adapt to their new teammates and continue to perform at a very high level.

It’s no secret that Arsène Wenger, for the last few seasons, has been scouring the transfer market for a proven, marquee goal-scoring striker to lead the line at Arsenal. Although several players fitting those specifications are available each summer, Wenger has been reluctant to spend exorbitant sums of money in an inflated transfer market. Last year he opted to sign Lucas Pérez from Deportivo La Coruña for €20M. After scoring only 7 goals in 22 appearances last season, it is clear that Pérez was not the goal-scoring threat that Wenger hoped for. Wenger also opted to deploy Danny Welbeck at the striker position. A converted winger with speed and skillful dribbling, Welbeck lacks a natural finishing touch required of all top strikers in the modern game. For that reason, Welbeck only managed to score one goal in 7 starts as a striker. Olivier Giroud, another option up top for Wenger, is a clinical finisher and an aerial threat. However, he does not possess the speed to make darting runs into the box nor does he have the skill to dribble past the last man or create enough space for himself to finish off chances.

Due to his lack of first-rate strikers, Wenger opted to use Alexis Sánchez, a natural winger, as a center forward. Without a doubt, the tactical change proved to be spectacular for Sánchez, who hauled in 24 league goals, a personal record. He was much more than a goal scorer for Arsenal last season. The Chilean was instrumental in Arsenal’s build up play, often dropping back to receive the ball and then facilitating attacks. For his efforts he notched 10 assists last campaign. Against Premier League minnows and mid-table teams, Sánchez was devastating when playing as a center forward.

In March, when Arsenal played West Ham, who had the sixth worst defensive record based on goals conceded, he recorded a hat trick. Likewise, he scored doubles against Hull, Sunderland, and Bournemouth, who had, based on goals conceded, the worst, third-worst and fifth-worst defensive records. Relying on his own skill, Sánchez was able to exploit weaknesses in these teams’ shaky defenses and score goals. However, when playing as the lone front man against defensively resolute teams, his flair was not enough to guarantee Arsenal acceptable results. With Sánchez leading the line, Arsenal lost to Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and most memorably to Bayern, who thrashed the Gunners in a 5-1 rout. Against these teams, Sánchez was often forced to drop back to aid in build-up play, and was unable to outplay defenders by relying on just his dribbling and agility. Without a target man up front, it proved difficult for Arsenal to score goals. Against top teams with tenacious defenses, scoring opportunities are few and far between, requiring a poacher in the box to convert half-chances into goals. Sergio Agüero, if he moved to Arsenal, would provide that predatory, striker instinct and can capitalize on the slimmest of chances in front of goal.

Excluding last season, in all of Arsenal’s prior Premier League campaigns up to the 2011/2012, no player has scored more than 20 goals a season. In the 2011/2012 campaign, Robin van Persie, a world class striker at the time, scored 30 for the club. Agüero has scored at least 20 goals in each of his last three Premier League campaigns and can be the prolific striker that Arsenal has been missing since losing van Persie. While most Arsenal fans would be frustrated to see Alexis Sánchez leave their club in the coming days, getting Sergio Agüero in return is more than enough for Wenger and Arsenal to curtail the pitchfork mob that is asking for the under-fire manager to resign.

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Unlike Sánchez, Sergio Agüero has never suggested that he wants to leave his club. Both Guardiola and City’s managerial hierarchy have affirmed that he will not leave this summer. However, Guardiola is very unpredictable when it comes to the transfer market, and could easily go back on his word. Parting ways with Agüero would create outrage among City fans, but Pep’s priority is not pleasing the fans. His vision for the club is an ambitious one: create a team that is able to rival the likes European giants Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. He is ruthless when it comes to carrying out his vision and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. Guardiola has succeeded at Barcelona and Bayern Munich utilizing a very offensive-minded, possession based strategy that prioritizes teamwork over individual skill. Agüero is a more clinical finisher than Sánchez, but the latter is the more complete player. Sánchez contributes much more to his team’s build up play than Agüero, which is one of the main reasons why Guardiola values the Chilean so highly. In fact, on average for each Premier League game, Sánchez made 43.3 passes with 2.1 key passes and 2 long balls. In comparison, Agüero averaged 24.9 passes with 1 key pass and 0.5 long balls per game. Sánchez’s passing produced measurable results, as he finished the Premier League campaign with 10 assists, as compared to Agüero’s 3 assists. One of Guardiola’s tactics to maintain his possession-based attacking style is the high press once his team loses the ball. Sánchez is a much better than Agüero at applying quick, defensive pressure over the duration of 90 minutes. In fact, Sánchez, on average, made 1.4 tackles each Premier League compared to Agüero’s 0.6 tackles per game. One of the main reasons Guardiola preferred Gabriel Jesus up top for City was his boundless energy that allowed him to chase down the ball when the opposition had possession, and Alexis Sánchez can apply the same defensive pressure.

Sergio Agüero booked himself a place in Manchester City’s Hall of Fame when he won the club their first Premier League title by memorably scoring in the final few minutes of the 2011-2012 campaign. City’s second all-time top goal scorer is a fan favorite and has arguably reached legendary status at the club. Although Agüero might not want to leave City, it might be his best option. At City, he might not be guaranteed a position in the starting lineup each game next season. As exemplified by his treatment of Joe Hart last summer, Guardiola is not afraid to edge fan favorites out of his plans, and Agüero might permanently lose his spot to Gabriel Jesus next season. For him, playing time is undoubtedly of utmost importance considering the World Cup is approaching next summer. He will need to play all the minutes he can get and score as many goals as possible to cement a spot in the Argentinian team that is well stocked with attacking talent, especially Paulo Dybala, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past few seasons, and is a direct competitor with Agüero for a spot in Argentina’s starting lineup.

A swap deal would benefit all parties, but theoretically it seems very unlikely. There is no modern precedent for a swap deal between two clubs for players without any cash involved. Agüero and Sánchez are around the same age and are of equal caliber so their values in the transfer market will be around the same, which means that a cash payment would not be necessary. Both clubs are reluctant to spend the money to sign either player outright. City have already spent €90M on goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and Portuguese winger Bernardo Silva, and are expected to sign up to four full backs, which could bring their total summer spending to more than €200M.

Arsenal, who have been heavily linked with signing Alexandre Lacazette, are balking at Lyon’s asking price of €67M for the striker. If Arsenal signed Lacazette, they would smash their transfer record, which currently stands at €47M paid to Real Madrid for Mesut Özil. Although Lacazette is a prolific striker, recording 37 goals in all competitions for Lyon last season, he, unlike Sergio Agüero, has not proven himself in the Premier League.

To avoid making large, unnecessary splashes in the transfer market, both Arsenal and Manchester City should seriously consider trading Agüero and Sánchez in an unprecedented swap deal that will most likely benefit all parties involved.

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