This summer could be the most turbulent period at Arsenal since the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in 2011. Those months in the club’s history hold deep significance at Emirates Stadium due to the circumstances in which both players left north London, with Fabregas returning to his boyhood team Barcelona and Nasri allowed to leave for Manchester City due to “financial and psychological reasons”.
“Football rules are made like that, that the player can be worth a lot of money today and nothing in six months so it doesn’t look completely logical but, at the end of the day, of course, we are forced into a decision like that for psychological and financial reasons,” said Wenger after the exits of both players were confirmed.
“I am a realist so I have no illusions. It’s part of the modern life of a professional football player. It’s not by coincidence that everybody suddenly lands at Man City.
“We did not want to lose Fabregas, but we were forced into a situation we didn’t want. Nasri is a situation where the player didn’t want to extend his contract with the proposals he had somewhere else. What kind of commitment can you have when the player is not there long-term? That is the question you have to answer.”
While Wenger has reiterated in the past that Arsenal are no longer in a position where they need to sell their best players, those comments suggest that he will allow players to go if he feels the long-term commitment isn’t there. And that’s where Alexis Sanchez comes in.
As Goal revealed on Tuesday, the Chilean has set his sights on a summer move to Manchester City where he wants to link up with his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. The transfer is likely to prove a difficult one to negotiate for City but, if it goes through, they will be getting a player who has scored 22 goals and created 18 assists in 44 games this season.
Alexis’s frustrations at Arsenal are nothing new. Leicester had already wrapped up the league title last year when the 28-year-old reacted angrily to being taken off in an end-of-season league game against Norwich when Wenger substituted him for defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin six minutes from time. It was a decision which infuriated Alexis as he stormed off the pitch and went straight down the tunnel, prompting his manager to make light of the situation.
“My job is to make decisions, and to make people 100 per cent happy there, as well, is very difficult,” said Wenger.
“Of course [he was not happy], I know Alexis very well, for a long time now, and he wants to play every minute. But what’s important is the team wins. The win was much wanted, needed and difficult.”
These occurrences have become more commonplace since Arsenal’s form has worsened. The 3-3 draw against Bournemouth in January, where the Gunners came back from 3-0 down to salvage a point in the last minute, saw Alexis refuse to join in the team’s celebrations at securing a late draw before he hurled his gloves to the floor in frustration at the end of the game.
There has admittedly been an acceptance of his behaviour because it’s part of his personality, but it all points to the player being frustrated with his team-mates who aren’t competing in the way their talismanic forward wants them to.
A similar scene at Swansea bore witness to Alexis putting his tracksuit coat over his head after being substituted 10 minutes before full-time. Arsenal were 4-0 up and, while many of the coaching staff could be seen giggling at the Chilean’s emotional reaction to being taken off, it once again gave Wenger with more questions to answer regarding the player’s current mood at the club.
A culmination of these events took a turn for the worse last month. Alexis was dropped for Arsenal’s crucial Premier League game with Liverpool at Anfield and nobody knew why. It later came to fruition that Alexis had stormed out of Arsenal training due to a “bad tackle” and was spoken to by Laurent Koscielny after the incident. Although initially rubbished by Wenger, comments from both Robert Pires and Theo Walcott poured scorn on the manager’s denials and confirmed that an incident did take place.
Alexis is a singular character with few close friends at Arsenal. His body language on the pitch is said to have upset many of his team-mates over the past few months, culminating with the incident at London Colney which Wenger tried to sweep under the carpet.
He is a winner who grew up playing football in his bare feet on the streets of Tocopilla and his main motivation is becoming the best and winning the major trophies in European football.
Arsenal have shown this season that they aren’t capable of challenging for the biggest trophies under the current management and no-one will be surprised if their star man leaves in a couple of months’ time or next year for free.