Arsenal are firmly in the midst of a crisis and one of the biggest issues is the fact that both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could leave at the end of the season, but could that actually benefit Arsenal?
Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will both have only one year remaining on their contracts at the end of this season and Arsenal must either sell them if they do not sign a new contract in order to recover some of the money spent on them, or risk losing them on a free transfer, come 2018 – something that Wenger has claimed the club are willing to do.
Mesut Ozil’s signing marked the beginning of a new era for the Gunners. A stunning deadline-day signing, the German international joined the Gunners from Real Madrid back in 2013 for a club-record fee of £42.5 million, shattering Arsenal’s previous transfer record of £17.6m million for Jose Antonio Reyes.
The German’s class was instantly visible from his very first game for Arsenal, when he laid on a fine assist for Olivier Giroud. However, Arsenal’s team still needed work and many felt huge improvements were needed to get the best out of Ozil.
Enter Alexis Sanchez. The £31.7 million Arsenal paid for the former Barcelona player was deemed a steal by many, but it was still a significant amount for the London side to spend.
However, it finally looked like Arsenal would be signing the caliber of players they needed to get back to where they belonged and optimism was at an all-time high at the Emirates.
Things have not quite worked out according to plan. Arsenal have won only two FA Cups since then and have never really seriously challenged for the English Premier League, with the poor record in the UEFA Champions League continuing and even getting worse this season.
The Gunners look to have regressed alarmingly, and while the blame for this lies at the manager’s feet as well as several other players, it is not being helped by the current situation surrounding Mesut Ozil and more importantly, Alexis Sanchez.
Despite starting the season in brilliant form, Ozil’s form has tailed off completely since December. The German is often criticised for a perceived lack of effort, but that is not the case, as he does cover a lot of ground in matches.
The problem lies with his inability to take a game by the scruff of the neck and lead by example when the going gets tough – a fault that he shares with almost the entire Arsenal team with the exception of Alexis Sanchez.
Ozil’s body language has also indicated a player who is growing weary with his teammates, which is yet another worrying sign. Ozil is at his best when the players around him match his ability and in a team with several sub-par players, Ozil himself is unable to thrive and has been one of the lightning rods for criticism this season as a result.
Sanchez’s body language over the past few months has been even worse. The Chilean has been seen sulking on the bench when substituted and was even accused of laughing when Arsenal were being decimated by Bayern Munich – although that was indeed a bit of an overreaction.
What seems clear is that the Chilean no longer trusts his teammates. Sanchez has regularly been seen throwing his hands up in frustration when players far below the standard he deserves to play with commit silly errors – something several Arsenal players do with embarrassing regularity.
It is always a little presumptuous to claim to know the mindset of a player based on the little one sees on the pitch, but given the situation with Sanchez’s contract as well as the fact that something has clearly changed within the Arsenal dressing room, it is difficult not to assume that Sanchez no longer wants to be at the Emirates.
All of these things have led to reports that there is a significant rift between Sanchez and his Arsenal teammates, with Robert Pires even confirming that Sanchez walked out of training after a poor tackle by a teammate, with Laurent Koscielny forced to follow him out of training to resolve the issue.
In a situation like this, the club must always immediately show that no player is bigger than the club and this was evident when Arsene Wenger dropped Sanchez against Liverpool.
This was quickly forgotten as Wenger then brought Sanchez on in the second half when Arsenal looked completely inept, with Sanchez the only player making an impact upon his introduction.
That just cemented the fact that several of Arsenal’s players are simply not good enough for this side, but while Sanchez is definitely their best player, there are a number of issues which could make it better for him to leave.
He has fallen out with his teammates, he has been setting a bad example with his reactions on the pitch and off it, and while the Chilean always gives a 100% and is the only Arsenal player this season who can emerge with any credit, Arsenal cannot allow him to do whatever he wants just because he is an absolutely brilliant player.
Given his form, Arsenal could still ask for upwards of £20 million for the Chilean superstar – just like they did when they sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United for £24 million in a similar situation.
Selling van Persie to Manchester United was a massive mistake and one that infuriated every single Arsenal fan, however selling him was the right move and Arsenal should have sold the player abroad instead of to a direct rival – something they must ensure they do with Alexis Sanchez.
Mesut Ozil is also a brilliant player, but the club cannot be held hostage. Ozil is not as important to Arsenal as Alexis Sanchez and while he would also be a massive loss for Arsenal, the Gunners could use the funds from the sales of both players to address key issues with the team.
Arsenal also need fighters in the team – something that they have clearly proven time and time again over the last few years – and while Alexis Sanchez is the definition of a fighter, Ozil is the antithesis to the Chilean.
Arsenal’s problem is that they do not play as a unit or defend as a unit and this has not been helped by the players they have on the pitch and the fractured relationship within the team at the moment.
Selling Ozil and Sanchez for significant fees could benefit the team – but only if Arsene Wenger is finally ruthless with them and replaces the likes of Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott and signs a prolific goalscorer to replace Olivier Giroud.
There are definitely more negatives than positives when it comes to Sanchez and Ozil leaving but if their departures are handled the right way. With the right additions and a dressing room that has been healed, it could be the fresh start that the Gunners need.