Despite some great summer business already, Arsenal fans are not having a good time.
Reports have circulated widely that Arsenal’s star man Alexis Sanchez is on the verge of leaving the club with only one year of his current deal left with Arsenal, having not signed a contract extension with the Gunners despite the north-London outfit reportedly breaking their wage structure for the Chilean international. It is believed that Sanchez has his heart set on joining Manchester City, as reported by The Guardian, where he will join former coach Pep Guardiola, under whose tutelage he had blossomed in the Catalonia.
Despite Sanchez universally regarded as one of the finest footballers of his generation, not many clubs in the world are ready to meet his wage demands, which leaves Arsenal in a particularly perilous position. They either have the option of securing a hefty fee from City for Sanchez, or risk losing him on a free transfer next year. Shrewd football business would suggest that Arsenal should cash in on the international — given Alexis already has his mind fixed on leaving — and spend that money elsewhere on more talent.
But that is not often the way things work in football.
The personnel and board at Arsenal, a club which has struggled over the last few years financially on account of building a new stadium, already know what it feels like to sell some of their best talent to an English rival. Reverse a few years back, and Arsenal had to unload want-away stars such as Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie to Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, helping the latter even win the Premier League title one year after the transfer. The business had caused much consternation among Arsenal fans, resigned as they were to no other alternative outcome.
This year, however, things are different. Even though Arsenal could cash in on Sanchez, they do not have to do it. The robust finances at Arsenal mean that they could keep Sanchez and force him to see out his contract, even if it means losing out on millions of pounds of money. Moreover, this is Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s last serious shot at a title challenge, and he would not want to give away his most prized asset effectively ending whatever chances his side may have of reclaiming the Premier League after a 14-year hiatus.
Moreover, if Arsenal has to make a statement of intent, it has to be by forcing Sanchez to stay at London Colney and ply his trade for another year at Arsenal. Sanchez is still in the prime of his career, and his ravenous footballing appetite means that the South American would not throw tantrums to be sent away to City, meaning Arsenal could bank on the Chilean international to give his best every time he steps out on the field. As former Arsenal legend Martin Keown reckons, Arsene Wenger’s contract situation, coupled with the growing pressure by Arsenal fans to win the title, means that Alexis Sanchez will likely stay at Arsenal for at least another year
“Sanchez will be the one now which everyone talks about – and let’s see how Arsene Wenger handles that. He (Wenger) has his contract (extension), and I don’t think Wenger will be in any rush, he will want to keep the player. I think he (Sanchez) is going to play, wherever he is, I don’t think he is the sort of lad who will down tools.
Wenger has two years to go now on his contract at Arsenal, and he will want that time spent with the best possible players – Sanchez is one of Europe’s best players. Arsene Wenger is a little bit different to a lot of the managers I played under, and he does have a special bond with his players. (Robin) van Persie had a heart-to-heart (talk) with Wenger, and he let him go. I feel this time around, he will not be letting him (Sanchez) or any of his other players go that he does not want to let go, and that is all time-linked to how long he has got left with Arsenal.”
Even more importantly, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have precedents to look back at. Not only is Alexis Sanchez at the top of his game at the moment, previously similar situations where managers have convinced their star players to stay for one last year before granting them their wish has often led to outstanding results. Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s last year at Manchester United, for example, after then manager Sir Alexis Ferguson pleaded that he stay with the English side for one last year before heading to Real Madrid. Or Luis Suarez’s case at Liverpool, whom manager Brendan Rodgers convinced to stay for a year before joining Barcelona. Both of them went on to have staggering seasons with their respective clubs, helping them finish first and second in the Premier League.
Sanchez can have a similarly productive season at Arsenal if the Gunners make him see out his contract. More importantly, if Arsenal wants to amplify their chances of winning the Premier League, holding on to Sanchez is absolutely vital.
What Arsenal do with Alexis Sanchez could very well go on to define how their title challenge shapes up next season, and what their future holds for them. If Arsenal wants to show ambition, there is only one way of showing it: by keeping the forward at Ashburton Grove no matter who comes calling.
[Featured Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images]