Arsenal, as everyone knows by now, are without Olivier Giroud for three to four months. Given that popular opinion was that Arsenal must buy a striker before Giroud got injured, Arsene Wenger is under even more pressure from the distinguished members of the press to do so. Wenger, though, as he is wont to do, isn't giving a fig what the media or the fans on Twitter think, and probably won't buy a striker because of Alexis Sánchez. As we wrote at the time of his signing, Alexis was signed to be an option at centre forward, with his attributes making a conversion a likely possibility.
Despite a poor 45 minutes against Everton last Saturday, Wenger is confident about Alexis' ability to play centre forward. On Wednesday, when Alexis was excellent in the role against Besiktas, Wenger said this in response to a question on whether Alexis can play upfront for 3-4 months:
For three or four months? He can play there his whole life. I bought him to play as a striker, not to play only on the flanks
Wenger has reiterated that feeling in his press conference today:
Wenger: "Alexis has many qualities to lead the line; he is brave, strong in the challenge, very quick, mobile, and a fighter."— Arsenal Column (@ArsenalColumn) August 29, 2014
Wenger: "Once his [Alexis] link-up play is better, his runs better, he could be very good in this role [up front]."— Arsenal Column (@ArsenalColumn) August 29, 2014
Alexis certainly seems Wenger's first choice option in the absence of Giroud, and given the targets he has chased for that position over the last year, that makes sense. Gonzalo Higuain was more of a poacher, but Arsenal made a serious play at Luis Suarez, a mobile, strong and quick striker who is an exceptional creative player as well as goal-scorer. Alexis has all of that, and in the second half against Besiktas, started competing, and winning aerial battles against Besiktas' centre halves. The biggest issue from last Saturday was that often when Alexis attacked, he didn't have enough runners to link with, with sometimes only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. On Wednesday, Arsenal had more of their midfielders getting forward, and Alexis was devastating on the counter attack.
Of Wenger's great teams, only Nicholas Anelka would be considered a traditional striker. Thierry Henry was, of course, converted, while Dennis Bergkamp became more of a #10 as the years went on. Arsenal's other frequent scorers during those years were Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Marc Overmars and Sylvain Wiltord: all wide players, who flourish in a fluid attacking unit. For all of Olivier Giroud's qualities, Alexis offers the chance to make Arsenal's attack a quicker, more devastating unit.