By Simon Green
Alexis Sánchez’s Arsenal career has been a bizarre mix of controversy and personal success in almost equal measure.
Despite a £30million price tag and the formidable reputation surrounding the player, can his time at Arsenal be considered an overall success?
When he left the Camp Nou for the Emirates in 2014, the signing of the Chilean and Mesut Özil seemed to indicate that Arsenal were heading towards the big money and ambitious philosophy of Chelsea and both Manchester clubs.
The signing made sense for the versatile Chilean, who was moving to a club that offered an opportunity to establish himself as the focal point, unlike his time in the shadow of Messi et al at Barcelona, in a team with an established philosophy and history in the most watched league in world football.
As he has developed over his Arsenal career, it seems the team has become ever more reliant on his relentless energy and attacking prowess, with his ability to bend a shot in the top corner from 25 yards or chip the keeper after a flowing passing move equally consistent in recent years.
Sánchez has always been an incredibly hard worker on the pitch, often seen chasing back to assist in defence whether played on the wing or as a striker. The decision by Arsène Wenger to use him as an attacking focal point in the 2016-17 season proved to be a fruitful one, with Arsenal’s No.7 scoring 30 goals, 24 of which came in the league.
The pinnacle of his Arsenal career undoubtedly came when he scored the opening strike and earned a man-of-the-match award in Arsenal’s second FA Cup victory in three years in the same season.
However, there have been low moments during his Gunners career too. The team were often accused at various points of being lazy or mentally weak, only made worse by Sánchez’s animated reactions on the pitch in his team’s 3-3 draw against Bournemouth in January 2017, for example. He was also seen to be laughing while on the bench during a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool earlier this season, for which he was slaughtered by pundits and fans alike.
And while his commitment and performance on the pitch have very rarely been in question, it seems that Sánchez felt his talent was wasted on Arsenal, resulting in his head being turned at the mere suggestion of a title-challenging club being interested in his signature.
With Guardiola’s lure seemingly too much to resist over the summer, and again at the start of the January window, it seemed only a matter of time before he moved to the blue side of Manchester. However, with their interest ending amid concerns over his wage demands, Man United and Chelsea seem the favourites to win Sánchez’s signature in the coming days for a fee in the region of £25-35 million, a ‘bargain’ for a player of his standing in the current market according to Antonio Conte, despite the fact he would be a free agent in just six months’ time.
So, will the Arsenal faithful look back on his time at the Emirates favourably? Yes and no.
It seems that his Arsenal story embodies the club’s fortune over the past few years; starting out with immense hope, achieving relative success and ending in anti-climactic ambivalence.
Photograph: joshjdss via Flickr