Premier League leaders Chelsea return to action this weekend when they host relegation-threatened Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte’s men picked up a vital 2-1 victory at Stoke prior to the international break to maintain their ten-point lead at the summit, and with just nine games of the season remaining, it’s hard to see past the Blues winning a fifth league title in 12 years.
And it would represent a stunning transformation from Conte’s side, who found themselves eighth and eight points adrift of the top when they lost 3-0 at Arsenal back in September, only to have won 19 of their subsequent 22 league games to all but regain the Premier League title.
Although the Blues still have much to play for between now and May, they are also into the last four of the FA Cup, speculation has arisen about who Conte may look to sign in the summer to bolster his squad ahead of their likely title defence and Champions League campaign next term.
And one name they have been linked to in the last few days is Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean yet to commit his future to the Gunners, and it looking increasingly likely that he will decide against doing so.
The 28-year-old has been in sensational form this season, netting 18 goals in 27 Premier League appearances for Arsene Wenger’s side, and that is one reason why Conte and his team should do all they can to land the forward this summer.
Sanchez has pretty much carried this Arsenal team this term, netting 18 times in the league as well as laying on nine assists, which means that he has been directly involved in 27 of their 56 goals in the top-flight this term, equating to 48%.
And when you consider that Chelsea’s star men Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have been involved in 25% and 37% respectively, it underlines how integral he has been, what pressure he has been under, and how well he has responded to it – ultimately, it hasn’t fazed him one bit.
And imagine him adding those sorts of numbers to a Chelsea team not short on quality in the attacking third – they would almost be unstoppable as, even if Sanchez isn’t scoring, he is creating chances, some of which have been assists to Arsenal goals.
In fact, of his last 14 Premier League appearances, Sanchez has failed to either score or lay on an assist in just two of those games, netting 12 times and providing six assists.
That would be invaluable to a Chelsea side that could lose Eden Hazard to Chelsea this summer, with Real Madrid circling and reportedly looking at a £100 million bid for the Belgian international, who himself has been in stunning form this term.
But his figures aren’t as good as Sanchez’s and, ultimately, Conte cannot have enough attacking options ahead of their European campaign next season, a competition Chelsea should be aiming to win with the squad they’ve got, and especially so if Sanchez joins them.
Costa has in the past struggled to play three times a week, and the greater volume of matches brings with it the greater chance of injury, fatigue, and burn out.
This season, Conte has had the luxury of naming a similar starting eleven almost every week in the Premier League – that’s likely, albeit not certain, to be different next term.
He will need a squad to win the Champions League, not necessarily a starting eleven, so the more options he has got, the stronger Chelsea will be, and the more trophies and titles they will compete for.
And having a player like Sanchez in the side, someone proven in the Premier League and in Europe, and with an insatiable appetite to play football, Chelsea would be significantly stronger for it, while also weakening one of their top four and potential title rivals in the process.
It may even help fire them to European success next term.