For those of you not familiar with him, Alexis Sanchez is a 22 year old attacking player from Chile. He's currently a member of Udinese in the Italian top flight, but his talent has him rumored to be heading to one of Europe's elite this summer. With our new youth policy coupled with our need for right footed attackers, it seems inevitable that we will be heavily linked to Sanchez between now and this summer. His Wikipedia page even suggests that he's already a member of Chelsea FC, although I'd guess someone just got a little excited when the rumors started. Still, with Sanchez youth combined with a very affordable (for traditional Chelsea) 17 million pound buyout, he could be a player worth watching both this winter and beyond. It's worth noting that he's one of the few potentially elite players we could target who isn't currently cup tied.
So at this point, you might be asking what Sanchez brings to the table. At 5'6", he's not a particularly imposing physical player. He's extremely technically gifted, and is known for providing excellent pace. His first touch is solid, and he's been known as a very creative dribbler. He also has a knack for making very difficult passes from odd angles look very routine. Just to give you an idea of what he can do, here's some Sanchez highlights from a game earlier this season versus Lazio (Sanchez is the little guy wearing number 7):
As you can see, El Nino Maravilla has a pretty deft first touch and has a knack for putting dangerous passes into the box. Here is another set of Sanchez highlights from a game versus Fiorentina:
Once again, it's fairly clear that he's an exceptionally creative player. Here's one more set of higlights (this one in spanish...yay). This set is from this past summer's World Cup. The video quality isn't as good, but the quality of competition is exceptional:
He looks to be a great fit for our current needs. At 22, he's young enough that his best years are still clearly in front of him. He's right footed, and most of our squad is currently stronger on the left side. He's capable of playing as a striker, but is more effective as either a wing forward from the right side or an attacking midfielder. He'd certainly give us the sort of creative presence that we've been lacking in recent seasons, and with Kakuta and McEachern could potentially form a very fun to watch group down the line. He'd also likely create many more chances for Droggles than he's been seeing recently.
Sanchez displays plenty of effort tracking back, but he's not known for his tackling. In any system we use him, he's likely to be strictly an attacking player. He'd also be a nice spark to have on the bench in those games when goals are hard to come by. One of the things our squad has been lacking has been a true change of pace type of guy, and Sanchez would provide just that. A guy like him on the right side is going to create openings for our attackers on the left, and it's been far too easy lately for the opposition to just overload the left side against us. He'd also be a nice piece to have on the bench in games where he rests, as his skillset would be more suitd to breaking down the overloaded box than most of our curent regulars.
It's unlikely that we'll see Sanchez move prior to this summer, but it's fairly clear he's far too talented a player to be spending his prime years at a smaller club like Udinese. In all likelihood Sanchez will be making a move this summer, and it's very possible that we'll be in the thick of it. While Sanchez wouldn't be my top choice (Luis Suarez), there certainly are very few better options than him available as right footed attackers when you consider his skillset and age. My only concern with Sanchez would be his diminutive size, and whether that would be impacted heavily by the physical nature of play in the premier league.
Update...Francisco Guidolin (Udinese manager) seems to imply that a January sale is possible:
“If it was up to me then I would keep Sanchez until June and I think the club agree with me on that. However, it does depend on a number of factors and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”