The acid test for footballers arriving in the Premier League from foreign shores is, more often than not, 'can he do it on a wet, windy Tuesday night in Stoke?' The Potters are famed for their roughhouse approach, so the work of Mother Nature would make a midweek trip to the Britannia Stadium that much harder.
The Premier League has become a hotbed of foreign talent in recent seasons and this summer has shown no signs that top sides are willing to buck the trend. Diego Costa, Filipe Luis, Ander Herrera, Lazar Markovic, amongst others, have all been signed by the 'bigger' teams, all of whom are keen on strengthening to improve their chances of securing glory this season. Arsenal, though, have perhaps stolen the show with their acquisition of Alexis Sánchez. Liverpool were keen on the Chilean before the Gunners swooped to secure the signing of the attacker, much to the delight of supporters.
Sánchez was the first real star to fall from the World Cup on the back of Chile's penalty shootout exit to Brazil at the last-16 stage. Speculation then mounted as to who would win the race to sign the 25-year-old, with the north London side coming up trumps. It was Arsenal's second marquee signing in the last year, having bought Mesut Özil for a club-record £42.5million just nine months ago. Arsenal may not have paid as much to secure Sánchez as they did for the German - a paltry £32million in comparison - but his signing has the Gunners faithful rubbing their hands in anticipation of the coming campaign.
Factor in the arrivals of Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers and one would be foolish to rule them out of the Premier League title race. Of the four, though, it's the acquisition of Sánchez that has supporters most excited. Only Lionel Messi (8.42) had a better WhoScored rating than Sánchez (7.52) for Barcelona in La Liga last season and signing a player of his calibre will send a message to their league rivals that they are serious about mounting a title challenge.
Sánchez netted more league goals (19) and registered more assists (10) than any other Arsenal player last season, so the Chilean offers another goalscoring and creative threat that is likely to leave opponents quivering with fear, but only when they visit the Emirates. When on the road, the attacker saw the standard of his displays dip for Barcelona last season.
Visiting teams are expected to set up more conservatively due to the psychological edge the hosts hold over the visitors, but for a team of Barcelona's ilk, that is not the case. Only Bayern Munich (70.2%) averaged more possession away from home than Barcelona (67.9%) in Europe's top 5 leagues last season, while the Blaugrana still fired away a fair number of shots per game (15.7) on the road.
Barcelona won 37 of a possible 57 points away from Camp Nou in Spain's top tier last season, so even though they weren't the home team, they were still favourites to secure a win on each occasion time. Unfortunately for them, Sánchez failed to live up to expectations when he could not rely on home comforts - his rating at home (8.15) dropped considerably when he played away (6.72).
This may have been as a result of former manager Tata Martino's tactics, but it's clear he played better when in front of his own crowd. This is further emphasised in that Sánchez scored more goals (17), averaged more shots (2.63), key passes (1.58) and dribbles (1.32) in Barcelona than on the road (2, 1.2, 1.13 and 0.73, respectively). 9 of the 12 clear-cut chances he created and 11 of these 13 such opportunities he scored came at Camp Nou, reinforcing the idea that Sánchez favoured his own turf.
Credit is due to defences who nullified him when Barcelona came to town, but a player of his quality should have been able to find a way past the opposition. When applying this to Arsenal, there is cause for concern that Sánchez will underperform away from home in the Premier League. No team won more points than the Gunners (35) on the road in England's top tier last season, so they are more than capable of picking up points when playing away.
The lack of away goals from their main striker, Olivier Giroud, is a worry, too. The Frenchman has netted 27 goals in 2 league seasons since signing from Montpellier - hardly the worst return for a lone striker - but 6 of those have been scored away from the Emirates and only 3 of those were netted outside London. Arsenal scored 32 times in 19 away games last season, but that figure could well have been higher if Arsène Wenger had a more prolific striker available.
Sánchez will go a long way to easing the goalscoring burden thrust upon the shoulders of Giroud, while his clever movement off the ball should bring out the best in Özil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey. However, his lacklustre form away from home is a concern, with supporters feeling the club needs to sign another attacking star before the close of the transfer window, having reportedly failed in moves for both Loïc Remy and Antoine Griezmann.
The former Barcelona ace is an exceptional signing for the Gunners, of that there is no doubt. Arsenal are unlikely be as dominant away from home as Barcelona and Sánchez may find things more difficult on the road. His performances on his travels need to improve if Wenger's side are to follow up their recent FA Cup win with further glory in the upcoming campaign.
Do you think Alexis Sánchez will struggle away from home in the Premier League next season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.Suggest a correction