When Alexis Sanchez put pen to paper in July of 2014, Arsenal supporters were beyond ecstatic. Less than 12 months earlier, the Gunners had brought in Mesut Ozil. Now they had two world class stars. Just what the doctor ordered!
Truth be told, the Chilean has been outstanding since his arrival.
He’s tireless when he has the ball, relentless when he doesn’t, and he always expects perfection from his teammates. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But, where things start to get a bit sticky is when titles are expected, which at a club like Arsenal and for a player like Alexis, he wants silverware. Hell, everyone wants silverware, but especially Alexis.
His fine form this season has stirred up all sorts of chatter surrounding his future in North London. And what a better place to be for all those rumors than the Premier League.
I swear, the English media love themselves some controversy. That statement is so accurate that I’m certain you already have a number of headlines scrolling through your brain, as you shake your head in agreement. It’s ridiculous how desperate they are to stir things up.
The Alexis and Mesut Ozil contract talks started hitting the headlines, and after that, Arsene Wenger was asked about it during breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was never ending.
Alexis was heading here, but then he was heading there. Now, rumor has it the mega-rich Chinese have shown some interest with a big fat paycheck for Alexis waiting for him. Not sure he’d be able to see it with all that smog floating around China.
A simple Google search of Alexis Sanchez brings up a load of articles, and guess what they’re all about? If your guess was his dogs, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong.
Juventus wants to swap Pjanic for Alexis. Pep made a phone call to Alexis. The Chilean is not happy at Arsenal. Alexis didn’t talk to his teammates after the Bournemouth match. Chelsea keeping a close eye on the Alexis situation. Alexis told Ramsey to fu*^ off during the Bournemouth match. (Is it wrong that I’m not too upset about that one?)
As you can see, it’s endless.
It’s obvious that every professional athlete plays to win titles. There isn’t one athlete that plays just to play, and doesn’t care about winning. Not one. The main difference is that while some guys will drag their feet around the pitch, cough, Ramsey, others will kick it into high gear for 90+ minutes every week.
Does that mean only Alexis wants to win titles? Absolutely not, but it does show that he’s willing to work a hell of a lot harder to achieve those goals.
The question is whether or not Arsenal is the place for him to achieve success.
He won titles at Barcelona, but then again, seems like everyone wins titles at Barcelona. Being the main focal point for Arsenal, everyone expects him to be the difference maker, which he has been, but just like Messi or Ronaldo, there will be times where he’ll require some help from the supporting cast. And by supporting cast, I’m not only referring to those who put on those skin tight Puma kits.
Arsene Wenger is part of that supporting cast as well. So too Steve Bould, Ivan Gazidis and Silent Stan. While Bould could likely still fill in one of those kits nicely, Arsene would need an extra small. Not nearly enough fat or muscle on him. But seriously, are they both able to provide Alexis and the rest of the squad with what’s needed?
The match against Bournemouth outlined two things for me that I’ve observed for a while.
One, apart from being a great defender, Laurent Koscielny is not a leader. Being a leader isn’t about playing great. He needs to be able to speak his mind, correct mistakes, and lay into his teammates when needed. He’s too quiet. Instead, you have Alexis yelling at teammates, throwing his arms up in frustration, or kneeling as he looks out into the crowd. What could possibly be going through his mind?!
Is he thinking that this Arsenal squad lacks leadership when it matters most?
I’m not Mertesacker’s biggest fan mainly because he’s as fast as a one legged giraffe, but, he’s more of a leader than Koscielny. Anyone remember the few times he gave Ozil an earful? Now think long and hard, when was the last time you saw Kos doing that?
For someone like Alexis who knows he can walk into most teams in the world, I would imagine that is be something that may cross his mind. Who knows, maybe behind closed doors Kos lets them have it, but, I’m not convinced that’s the case.
My second point is when you have guys like Aaron Ramsey alongside you, it can understandably get frustrating.
Just watching him play makes me want to pull every single hair out, one by one. It’s painful. He had one good season, since then, he’s been hit or miss, mostly miss. So can you imagine what it’s like playing alongside him?
He’s supposed to be this superstar, or at least he thinks he is, as does Arsene Wenger, yet more often than not, he underperforms. Then to top it all off, Arsene Wenger moves him around the pitch like a chess piece, putting him anywhere possible so he doesn’t have to bring him off. Has Le Prof lost a lifelong bet with the Welshman we need to know about?
Guys like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil not only make it happen for you on the pitch. While they make those around them better, they will also help attract better players to the club. Obviously a reasonable salary comes into play, and if Arsenal can’t realistically meet their asking price or come to an agreement, things get difficult, but apart from the numbers, the club also needs to show a proper plan. That all starts from the top.
From Silent Stan, to Gazidis, and onto Arsene.
Alexis doesn’t seem like the type to chase the zeros on a pay check. But he does seem like the guy who wants to win. He wants to celebrate those victories and raise those trophies. He’s hungry to win, and he’s at the right age to really go for it.
Arsenal now need to decide if their frugal approach over the last decade boils down to this. Isn’t this why the club aimed for financial stability? To be able to eventually compete with the other big clubs?
Well, now is the time to prove it. From the directors box at the Emirates, to the immaculate pitch, everyone needs to do their part. It’s not just the paycheck that’s going to convince the Chilean, or even Mesut. They will need to feel the togetherness, the leadership and the hunger of everyone alongside them. Are they all ready to go to battle for each other, or is it every man for himself?
That remains to be seen, but, let’s hope Alexis doesn’t walk away from Arsenal like he did to his gloves after the final whistle against Bournemouth.