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It has been clear for a while that Alexis Sanchez is intent on leaving Arsenal and the Chilean was coy when asked about his future on Friday as Chile prepare for the Confederations Cup final on Sunday.
“Yes it is clear but I can’t tell you,” he explained.
With Bayern Munich having rather publically pulled out of the running with club president Uli Hoeness claiming in an interview with kicker that you can’t build a team around 100 million euro 29-year-olds, there is now seemingly no other potential suitor for Sanchez other than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The spending revolution at the Etihad Stadium continues this summer with the former Barcelona coach set to be given almost an entirely new team with Kyle Walker, Dani Alves, Benjamin Mendy and a central defender all expected to follow Bernardo Silva and Ederson to the club this transfer window.
Alexis Sanchez would be yet another attacking signing and would give the Blues a real embarrassment of riches going forward, something that very few clubs across the continent could compete with.
However, Arsenal are in an incredibly difficult but all too familiar predicament with their star player desperate to leave the club but equally as desperate to remain in the Premier League.
Yet in 2017 there is a slight difference to the Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie and to a lesser extent Cesc Fabregas sagas and it is because by this point Arsenal Football Club were supposed to be in a position to compete and stave off the vultures when it came to the transfer market.
Those in power at the Emirates Stadium spoke of how the days of high profile sales were over and that Arsenal were set to build a young team capable of competing for major honours.
The reality is Arsenal are nowhere near the Premier League title race and the club simply won’t be able to justify letting Sanchez leave to Manchester City.
Such a deal would have a two-pronged impact on the Gunners’ domestic fortunes, not only would losing the Chilean forward from their squad weaken Arsenal but allowing him to join Manchester City would in actual fact make a team that was already better than Arsenal even stronger.
Listening to Ivan Gazidis speak to supporters at an end-of-season event on Thursday evening will have been a rather bizarre experience with the club’s chief executive calling for more unity between supporters and the club as detailed by Amy Lawrence.
On the one hand this is a fair statement to make with the atmosphere around the club’s final three months of the 2016/17 season a really poisonous one, however how can you expect unity and support from a fan-base who you keep repeatedly alienating with decisions that are unpopular with them?
Better to let him see out his contract
Alexis Sanchez should be given every opportunity to stay with the club via a contract extension and if that should fail he should be forced to see out the final year of his contract.
In this instance any blame attached to Arsenal for his departure will be minimal; they will have no choice but to let him leave once his contract has expired in June 2018.
How can there be all the boasting of financial strength at the club’s AGMs yet the club are still forced into sales for fees that are in truth minimal in the current fiscal climate of the Premier League.
Borussia Dortmund wrote off Robert Lewandowski as a sellable asset and forced him to see out his contract before joining Bayern Munich for nothing in the summer of 2014.
It is worth remembering that commercially Dortmund were at that time far less productive than Arsenal are now and turning down such a fee for the Polish striker was more likely to adversely impact them than if the North London club were to do the same with the reported £40 million set to be earned from Sanchez’s departure.
Arsenal can in no way justify such a sale because it goes against everything they have been telling their own supporters for the last 18 months.
The FA Cup success of 2014 was supposed to mark the end of an era of austerity, the move to the Emirates Stadium had been expensive and lengthy yet by all accounts it was basically paid for by this time.
Arsenal have won two further FA Cups in that time but have in truth come no closer to lifting the English title and have failed to progress past the First Knockout Round of the Champions League every single year.
Now you may point towards the 2nd placed finish in 2015/16 but that doesn’t tell the entire tale. It is worth noting that in that season Arsenal’s title challenge was mathematically over before that of Tottenham who ended up finishing just below them in 3rd.
Fans are treated with a degree of contempt across the board in football, particularly in England, with the hierarchy of clubs often preferring to run a club in accordance to their own preferences rather than the will of the fans and I suppose that’s fine, but don’t then expect the supporters to simply go along with whatever decisions are made in a show of blind faith.
Ivan Gazidis’ calls for unity couldn’t come at a worse moment.
The decision to retain Arsene Wenger and offer him a two-year contract extension was a widely unpopular move, however given the timing of the decision and how long everything was allowed to rumble on, you could at least argue that for one year at least it was the only safe decision Arsenal could have made.
Arsenal must go out blazing this summer
However following that, as a club you then have to go and deliver and have a proper summer.
First choice targets should be pursued with an intensity that hasn’t been seen by Arsenal since the days of David Dein.
Kylian Mbappe is an unattainable target, most supporters will accept that, yet if Alexandre Lacazette is your next choice, go and get him, don’t insult those in power at Lyon by offering them less of a fee than what had previously been agreed with Atletico Madrid.
The same can be said with the Gunners’ offer for Thomas Lemar.
Of course you have to leave some room for negotiation but the starting point shouldn’t be a fee so much lower than that paid for Bernardo Silva given how the 21-year-old Frenchman was equally as effective and creative as the Portuguese star within the Monaco team.
No benefit to selling the Chilean
There is absolutely no benefit to selling Sanchez this summer. Realistically any quality replacement is going to cost more than his sale will bring in, furthermore Sanchez isn’t a player who will sit and sulk.
Even at his most incandescent last year he still did his best to drag Arsenal forward even if it was just to prove a point about how he needed to do everything on his own.
Arsene Wenger faces an incredibly tough challenge next season in terms of balancing both a Europa League campaign and a Premier League season in which finishing in the top four is probably the best they can aim for yet it won’t be something supporters will accept after years of treading water.
As Manchester United found with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, having truly elite stars can propel you over the line in the Europa League quite easily.
Sanchez is of that level and it isn’t hard to envisage him finishing as a comfortable top scorer in the tournament should the Gunners progress to the very latter stages.
Sale would bring the club back to square one
This is what Arsenal need to be looking for as a football club, the bottom line isn’t everything and for all the talk about it being a second tier competition, winning the Europa League would boost morale massively at the club and with Sanchez in tow this is all the more likely.
Yet a sale to Manchester City threatens to send the club back down a road they have been on before and this time there won’t be a happy ending.
A further season of failure won’t be accepted by a fan-base already livid and if this is kick-started by yet another sale of a star to a domestic rival, it is almost impossible to see how Arsenal can recover without complete, wholesale change across all facets of the club.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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