Like the Ozil signing, the Sanchez signing still doesn’t seem real. This isn’t the Arsenal I’m used, I’m from the Bendtner and Denilson era, the Squillachi blip, the Wigan implosion days after going 2-0 up with ten minutes to go: those days. Now… In comes Alexis Sanchez, dressed in red and white, and just looking generally awesome. Sanchez signing feels different to Ozil; Ozil felt like a surreal dream that seemed to be happening out of good fortune and severe misjudgement on Real Madrid’s’ part—and history could repeat itself in the name of Sami Khedira. But Sanchez feels, to me, more exciting than the Ozil signing. We needed Sanchez, we targeted him, we got him, straight out, no faffing about; this is the player Arsenal needed, and this is the player they got. We beat a world-class signing to rivals and genuine interest from other parties. This was the real ‘new Arsenal’, and if Ozil was the catalyst, then Sanchez is most definitely the movement of something special; Arsenal are going somewhere exciting. And there is one man to thank for that, through the bad times, and the good: Arsene Wenger. He is the head and heart of Arsenal. He knew, even if nobody else did, through all the, mostly, moronic criticism, he knew it was only a matter of time before his final vision became reality. Eight years of hardship has stuttered to a thankful end, and Wenger is setting himself for glory again. And the players feel it, too. They’re seeing huge names talk about wanting to play for Arsenal, for Wenger; the club is electric with possibility and positivity. And Sanchez is the latest player to see that Wenger is taking Arsenal in the ‘right direction.’ Doubt was natural. But don’t some of us look silly now. Wenger had a plan. He was just struggling with it. Now it’s flourishing.
Let’s start with Sanchez; there’s nowhere else could we possibly start. What a signing. What a player. What a start to the summer. Okay, so Arsenal are ‘rich’ now, and that means bigger fees, bigger wages, and bigger players. But that isn’t the big reason behind Sanchez signing for us. Look at Liverpool. They destroyed us last season, they had a brillaint season, and they were in for Sanchez. But you bring Brendan Rodgers up alongside Wenger (and with no disrespect), working with the Frenchman is a much, much bigger attraction than the Liverpool manager. Why? Because of what he’s achieved. What he stands for. What he does for his players, the bond, the vision, and the history. Wenger bleeds for Arsenal. And it resonates with the players. They see this, they see the way he is with the team, the younger players, and his stubbornness to play the right way, his way, the Wenger way, and they see a place where they can become greater. Sanchez signed for Arsenal because of Wenger. Had it not been Wenger behind Arsenal’s reigns, then this summer might not have been looking so bright, dull even. Reportedly, Sanchez had a private meeting with Wenger prior to agreeing a move, and it was this that convinced him. Various media outlets provide some Sanchez quotes: ‘this club has a manager that looks after his players’, and, ‘Arsenal is a club that cares about the players and I can learn a lot here.’ All of that points to the influence of Arsene Wenger. A lot of players openly admit to joining Arsenal because of a desire to learn and improve under Wenger’s stewardship. It must be in the back of their minds, he’s done it before: he has a record of creating legends. Most managers do not.
Then there’s Mezut Ozil: the Bergkamp of the new era. He changed everything. A year before THAT year, it’s safe to say, people would have never have believed, even drunk, that a year later, Arsenal would have signed Mezut Ozil, the best number ten in the world, from Real Madrid. It was surreal. It seemingly came out of a magic hat. A magic hat worn by Wenger. He took it off and out came Mezut. The season was imploding before it had begun, and then it wasn’t. Ozil revealed he felt a ‘lack of trust and respect’ at Madrid. And all Wenger had to say, over a phone call, was that he’d give him all the trust and responsibility a player of his calibre deserves. He talked him up, told him he was fan since his Bremen days. (And he’s also fluent in German.) It was a big, blazing, green light for Ozil. And the icing on the cake: ‘I would have joined Arsenal on a free.’ He wanted to play for Wenger.
Even before Ozil, Wenger was the deciding influence in transfers. And now, looking back on it, and the player we have on our hands, it might just be the sweetest of all. Ramsey was all set to join United, but Wenger wouldn’t give him up without a fight. And he did fight. And he won. He personally flew Ramsey and his family out to Switzerland to discuss the Welshman’s future over dinner, and Ramsey has spoken of how Wenger told him over a meal how much he wanted him, and what he could turn him into, and from there… Ramsey was a gooner. The influence: Wenger again. United did not fly Ramsey out to Switzerland. Wenger did. Because Wenger’s like that. He really cares. And now Ramsey is dynamite.
You could argue that these three are now our best players at the club. And you could argue more, that without Wenger they’d never have signed. Ramsey would be at United, and that thought is as horrifying as it is amusing. Ozil could be at United, and Sanchez at Liverpool. But he’s not; they’re not. Fine margins. And that margin is Arsene Wenger. They are Arsenal players. They are Wenger’s players. As a football club, we are so lucky to have someone like Wenger, and sometimes we don’t appreciate it. The man’s charm is infinite, and his smirk irreplaceable. Alexis Sanchez will not be the last big name to join Arsenal because of Wenger.