Alexis Sanchez was the centre of the summer’s main transfer saga.
With a new contract at Arsenal apparently improbable, the Chilean drew the attention of the world’s media. Arsene Wenger remained stubborn that he would not sell his star of 2016/17.
Manchester City were the supposed main pursuers of Sanchez. There were flirtations with Juventus and Paris Saint Germain links, but neither carried much weight compared to the relentless speculation of a move to the northwest for Alexis.
As is the way with the information age we live in, people were hanging on every word from Wenger, Pep Guardiola, Sanchez, and anyone who could remotely be involved. There was probably someone who was writing a thinkpiece on Alexis’ dog’s body language.
No one did anything particularly outlandish, and Sanchez – sadly – did not take things into his own hands in a Peter Odemwingie sort of way. Arsenal did not want to sell their best player to a direct, domestic rival, and you cannot really blame them for that.
Whether the Gunners would have sold Sanchez to a non-Premier League club we may never know. If the money was right, I suspect they would have done.
Arsenal proved a point by not selling in the summer. They might have genuinely believed they could convince Sanchez to stay, they might have been digging their heels in to avoid another Robin van Persie or Emmanuel Adebayor situation.
Whichever aim, Wenger got his way of sorts. The trouble is, Arsenal might have missed out on tens of millions of sterling (no, not Raheem). Their predicament is even clearer now than it was all those months ago: let Sanchez leave on a free, which will probably see him join Manchester City, or sell him – probably to City – and at least bring in some transfer revenue.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, players running down their contracts puts the club in an impossible position. It is something we are unfamiliar with in football, but a tactic we are likely to see more often as transfer fees inflate. Players want to be able to pick where they play, and Sanchez is six months away from having a completely free reign.
Sanchez is almost certain to be a Manchester City player in 2018/19. So why not let him play for them for the second half of 2017/18, too?
Well, since you ask. Though they are not direct competitors this season, the Chilean international could still have a significant impact in Arsenal’s top four challenge and cup successes. Selling him at this juncture would also undermine the position they took in the summer.
As many an Arsenal fan will tell you, though, Sanchez has been a shadow of his dazzling 2016/17 self. This season has seen more five out of tens than nine out of tens. Let’s not even go into the possible dressing room impact Alexis has had (there are plenty of conspiracies out there about that).
This season is alive and well for Wenger’s Gunners. Letting their supposed best player go halfway through it sounds a lot worse than it would be. Arsenal need to begin planning for the post-Sanchez world, and there’s no time quite like the present.
You can justify not selling Alexis in the summer. It’s altogether trickier to do that now. Arsenal should take whatever they can get from Manchester City this window, and begin working on their targets to replace Sanchez.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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