So, Alexis Sanchez has joined Manchester United. Two years ago if I had told you that was going to happen, as an Arsenal fan you would not have been happy. You still won’t be happy, but can Arsenal now finally move on from the inevitable and rediscover their identity?
As good as Alexis was and is, he was always a different player to what Wenger and Arsenal would usually go for. Unorthodox in his approach; tireless, selfish, sulky but wonderful at his best. Alexis always appeared an individual and would play his own way, rather than with ‘Arsenal DNA’. Sometimes that was good for the Gunners, a fresh approach and an unpredictable world-class talent, no doubt saved the team in a number of games. But whilst Alexis has been here, have Arsenal really progressed? No. There’s been lots of talk about Alexis being too good for the Europa League, but he was below par in spells of the last two campaigns and that has no doubt impacted results negatively on the pitch. There’s no doubt that behind the scenes Alexis has been causing some unrest and I think some of the players will be relieved to see the back of the Chilean, that relief was visible as the Gunners dismantled Crystal Palace in 22 minutes on Saturday, after Alexis had left the team hotel to complete his move to United on Friday night.
Yes, Manchester United are a bigger club than Arsenal, but ultimately the player has opted for one last big pay day. If he wanted trophies he would’ve accepted the offer from Manchester City. I’m not knocking United for paying that money, they earn it, they can spend it how they want, but that’s the reality, any honest United fan will accept that. Which shows that Arsenal never really had a chance of keeping Alexis, they could never compete financially with United and honestly, I don’t believe he is worth anything close to the reported £500,000 per-week he will earn at Old Trafford.
Anyway, onto the new… Henrikh Mkhitaryan…
I honestly think Arsenal have done very well to get the Armenian in. Yes, he has rusted during his time under Jose Mourinho, but this is a player the club were desperate to sign just 18 months ago. He, unlike Alexis, is very Arsenal. If he is rewarded with attacking freedom, I’m sure he can start to play his best football and that is truly sublime stuff.
The media will have you believe that Arsenal don’t need any more creators. But we’ve relied massively on Mesut Ozil for creativity, and when he is absent the Gunners really struggle for tempo in the final third. Even with Ozil Arsenal can be too one dimensional and predictable with their attacking approach, Mkhitaryan’s arrival will change that. He’s a playmaker that can play anywhere across the attack and he’s got a phenomenal final ball. In his last season at Dortmund (2015/2016), Mkhitaryan notched 11 goals and 15 assists in 31 Bundesliga games. His goal contribution rate was the highest of any player in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
At United he has been restricted by Mourinho’s negative tactics and also the way he has been treated. Jose has publically shamed the player on a number of occasions and has also unfairly hauled him off the pitch embarrassingly early a handful of times – his confident was obliterated by a man with no mercy, Wenger is the polar opposite. Perhaps Mourinho would’ve behaved the same with Ozil who has gone through similarly poor spells, but Wenger’s patience and belief in Ozil is now reaping it’s rewards, with the German arguably in the best form of his life.
Hopefully the team can add Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Gabonese striker previously linking up very well with Mkhitaryan in Germany. A ready-made attacking duo with experience of playing together at the highest level will be very welcome.
Whilst seeing Alexis in a United shirt isn’t the nicest of sights at all for any Arsenal fan, I get the feeling we as fans will look back on this transfer window as one where we improved as a team. Prove me right please, Arsenal.