Heading into deadline day for summer transfers, Arsenal were still on the fence regarding the sale of one of their star players, Alexis Sanchez. Ultimately, an agreement to send the Chile international to Manchester City fell through in the final moments of the window. Both Arsenal and City could claim partial blame for the move falling through.
Pep Guardiola’s City had all summer to submit a fee to the Gunners for the wantaway Sanchez; however, they chose to wait until the final day of the transfer window to enter a formal offer. Arsenal, on the other hand, did not have a replacement lined up should City make an offer for their forward. In the end, an agreement with Monaco for Thomas Lemar failed to occur within the final few hours of the transfer period, thus ending City’s summer chase for Sanchez.
With Sanchez in the final year of his contract, and free to leave at the end of the season, Arsenal were ready to take a gamble with their star. Manager Arsene Wenger essentially figured that even though Sanchez was open to leave the north London outfit, the Chilean would still be motivated enough and at his best to help take the Gunners back into the top four of the standings. In turn, this would take Arsenal back into the lucrative Champions League for the 2018/19 campaign and theoretically open the door for contract extension talks. This has, however, not been the case.
Sanchez has not exactly appeared fully motivated so far this season, and reports have surfaced about a possible rift between the forward and his teammates. Also, Arsenal are currently sixth in the table, five points adrift from fourth placed Liverpool. While no one wants to hear excuses, it must be pointed out that the Gunners have been the victim of multiple major referee gaffes that have cost them serious points (most notably against Stoke, Watford, West Brom, and Chelsea). These awful decisions are not the sole reason Arsenal are currently sixth, but it certainly has not helped their cause.
Twenty-two games into the current campaign, and Sanchez sits on seven goals and three assists during Premier League play. While these numbers are not horrible, Wenger was most likely banking on the forward recreating similar numbers from a year ago. At this point in the season last year, Sanchez had a tally of 15 goals and eight assists during league play, more than double the output of his current statistics.
Wenger can surely be susceptible to receive criticism for his handling of the Sanchez situation. After all, it was ultimately his decision to keep the forward and take a gamble on the 2017/18 season. However, Sanchez’s play and attitude have undoubtedly let Wenger and the rest of the club down. The 29-year-old striker has appeared uninterested on the pitch at times this season, perhaps most notably during the team’s win against Swansea in October.
The normally active Sanchez covered just 9.4 km during the match, fewer than every Arsenal player that finished the full 90 minutes other than Per Mertesacker. Sanchez also only recorded 52 sprints in the game, fewest among every outfield Arsenal player except the two center backs, and only managed a top speed of 31.1 km/h, slower than the aforementioned Mertesacker.