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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

If Alexis Sanchez signs for Manchester City it could be Sergio Aguero who makes way

Given the galaxy of attacking riches at Pep Guardiola's disposal, a move for the Chilean forward would likely see the Argentine depart. 

Alexis Sanchez looks dejected after his Chile team lost the Confederations Cup final to Germany at Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday, July 2, 2017.
Alexis Sanchez looks dejected after his Chile team lost the Confederations Cup final to Germany at Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday, July 2, 2017.

You don't need to be a linguistics expert to decipher the meaning behind the words, particularly when they come from a player trying to portray a picture of diplomacy during a news conference.

When Alexis Sanchez was asked by a journalist if he would be a clubmate of his Chile teammate Claudio Bravo at Manchester City next season, Sanchez said it all without really saying anything.

“Good question,” he replied before Sunday's defeat to Germany in the Confederations Cup final in St Petersburg. “Right now, I am focused on the Confederations Cup. When this is finished, I will see if I stay or if I go. I don’t know,” adding he was "clear" in his mind but "I can’t tell you anything.”

Hardly throwing the wolves off the scent, the Chilean was slightly less cryptic when he was later asked by a Sky Sports reporter whether he would remain at Arsenal: "I don't know my friend. I don't know."

Not exactly a bulwark of reassurance for Arsenal fans, even less so when uttered by a player about to enter the final year of his contract.

A first-half Lars Stindl strike denied Chile a third international trophy in as many years, following successive triumphs at the Copa America in 2015 and 2016. Despite Sunday's defeat, Sanchez and his Chile teammates are riding the crest of a wave. The watermark set at Arsenal is a damp squib by comparison.

Arsenal's trajectory may be seen as heading in a downwards spiral, having failed to finish in the top four last season and thus missing out on the Uefa Champions League for the first time in 20 years. But securing a third FA Cup trophy in four years in May is not to be sniffed at. Since when is winning a trophy no longer regarded as a successful season?

Manchester City's interest in signing a player who netted 24 times in the Premier League - as well as the FA Cup final win over Chelsea - hardly needs explaining. A proposed move to the Etihad Stadium is easy to understand, too. A financial package that would at least match Arsenal's offer of a reported £250,000 (nearly Dh1.92 million), a team who will be playing Champions League football instead of Europa League next season and the chance to once again work under Pep Guardiola, who signed Sanchez at Barcelona from Udinese during the Catalan's final season in charge in 2011.

The more pressing question is where does Sanchez fit into Guardiola's plans?

Any manager able to call on the goalscoring ability of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, the wizardry of David Silva and the newly acquired Bernardo Silva, and a supply line featuring Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne is the envy of his peers. These are also the positions Sanchez, should a deal materialise, be most likely to operate in.

So the most obvious answer would suggest one of that coveted seven-piece will be jettisoned. But who?

Bernardo Silva, 22, has been purchased from the principality of Monaco for a princely sum of €50m (Dh209.8m). Sane and Sterling were signed for similarly hefty fees and, at 21 and 22 years old, represent the long-term at City. David Silva, widely regarded by fans as City's greatest ever player, remains a favourite of Guardiola's, even at 31. And while the manager was critical of De Bruyne's performances last season, particularly his goals return, the Belgian playmaker's passing range and variation in several attacking positions will see him survive the cull.

That would leave one of two from Aguero and Jesus. The latter was an instant hit after joining City in January from Brazilian side Palmeiras, becoming the first player in the club's history to assist and score on his league debut. And while Aguero's scoring achievements at the club are nonpareil, it is the prolific Argentine who could find his time at the club coming to an end, or his chances severely limited if Sanchez should arrive.

A look at their 2016/17 Premier League stats shows Sanchez outscored his rival by four goals, laid on more assists (10-3) for his teammates and created more than 40 per cent more chances, according to Opta stats.

Perhaps the most interesting stats - given that Guardiola favours a high press and quick transition - is to look at their numbers in defence. Sanchez won 40 tackles last term to Aguero's 14 and 24 interceptions to the latter's three. Sanchez's tenacity and temperament would seem a perfect fit for Guardiola's master plan. The displays of petulance aimed at Arsenal teammates would be less likely to rear its ugly head with the quality surrounding him at City, you would think.

Aguero was famously dropped to make room for Jesus when he scored on his Premier League debut against West Ham United in February. And while he was quickly restored to the line-up after the 20-year-old Brazilian broke a metatarsal in his right foot in only his fourth game, it remains to be seen whether Guardiola sees them in tandem spearheading City's attack.

Aguero, scorer of 169 City goals - the most famous of which was the last kick of the season that secured the Premier League title in 2012 - will go down as the club's finest marksman, but in an era when his manager demands more of his strikers than just goals, looks the most likely to make way.

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