Alexis departure is bittersweet but Arsenal will ultimately be better for it
When Özil joined Arsenal in 2013 the fans felt it was the start of a new dawn at the club; we were finally attracting the best talent and paying the necessary price to get them here. A year later Özil was joined by another star player from a Spanish giant in Alexis Sanchez who Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had managed to steal away from Barcelona for a paltry £35m.
Arsenal now had a solid British core, established top flight players and two genuine superstars to add some stardust to the team. It felt like winning the lottery or hitting the UK online casino jackpot to have these players in this team. And in the four years since Özil joined the club Arsenal have won three FA Cups, ending a nine-year trophy drought.
The last year has been incredibly bittersweet for Arsenal supporters. We haven’t climbed to the heights we thought we would with these players but we have won trophies. We won the FA Cup last year but finished out of the top four and behind Tottenham for the first time in 21 years. We bought a top class striker in Lacazette but our best two players were running their contracts down.
Fortunately it looks like Özil is about to extend his contract but Alexis Sanchez has made it clear his heart is belongs to someone else’s wallet. That may seem like a bitter thing to say but given Alexis could have his pick of any successful club in world football in the summer the fact he is moving to Manchester United, a club whose light has faded in recent years and play with a negative manager, for a reported £500k a week suggests he is a mercenary. And that’s okay. This is modern football after all. Good luck to him.
It doesn’t hurt to lose Alexis like it hurt to lose other talismans. Wenger put it eloquently when he said that losing Van Persie was more painful.
“We took Van Persie when he played in the reserve team at Feyenoord. We made a long work with him. When you get them there and, after they leave, that is the most painful. Our fans know Alexis will not extend – they have accepted that idea and the fact it will not be one-way traffic. It will be other-way traffic as well and that makes the whole thing a bit smoother, maybe a bit less disappointing. We lose a player, yes, but we could gain another player. I think one would replace the other.”
Sure, we’re losing Alexis, a man who has already given us so many incredible memories but we will get Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return and overall I have to say we’re getting the better deal. We certainly need a Mkhitaryan more than we need an Alexis. We can adapt to the loss of Alexis but what is harder to replace is the creativity we lost when Santi got injured. There is far too much pressure on Özil to deliver and that lack of an extra creative spark is having a negative effect on the impact Lacazette should be having.
Mkhitaryan would flourish at Arsenal in a way that he never could under Mourinho and if we were to buy Aubameyang too we’ll have a proven partnership to help shoot us up the table. I have no doubt that Alexis will be a success at United and I am sorry to lose him however I am excited by the prospect of return to a more creative, intuitive Arsenal that controls the ball properly. I think Mkhitaryan could be the spark for that.
So it is another bittersweet moment for Arsenal. We lose our most explosive and reliable goalscorer since Van Persie but in return we gain another player who can make more chances for our strikers. The last time we sold a superstar who we relied on too heavily for goals and replaced him with a creative midfielder we went on to become a more balanced side and break our trophy hoodoo. Let’s hope this is a similar catalyst that we properly capitalise on this time.
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