Latest posts by Charlie Widdicombe (see all)
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The end of the summer transfer window can often leave many premier league teams with plenty of optimism, having splashed the cash. However, Arsenal fans, it seems to be even worse than “same old Arsenal” under Arsene Wenger, with after a troubled start to the season with a stale 1-0 defeat and Stoke, and a truly abysmal performance losing 4-0 at Anfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left for Liverpool, and Alexis Sanchez ended up staying at the club having almost signed for Manchester City. So, were Wenger and Arsenal right to keep Sanchez anyway, and what now for the Gunners?
What’s Gone Wrong??
Resigned to the fact that Arsene Wenger had signed a new contract and would be in charge of the gunners for 2017/18, Arsenal fans still had reason to be optimistic following the signing of Alexander Lacazette, finally bringing in a prolific goalscorer that many feel Olivier Giroud is not. However, Lacazette wasn’t even selected in the XI to play Liverpool. Many will also question why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started the first 3 league games despite being unsettled, following bids from both Chelsea and Liverpool. Their only other summer signing, Sead Kolasinac, was also left out despite being a more natural wing back than Chamberlain, and showing some promising performances in the Community Shield and against Leicester. Wenger’s decision to play 3 at the back has exposed the weaknesses of Arsenal’s central defenders to play alongside Koscielny; Shkodran Mustafi has failed to settle at the club and a move to Inter Milan only fell through due to wage demands, Per Mertesacker is extremely injury prone and not getting any younger, Nacho Monreal is not a natural centre back, whilst Rob Holding and Calum Chambers are yet to fully convince at the top level of English football.
Despite all this, the biggest question marks remain over the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Ozil continues to receive criticism despite an impressive number of goals, assists and chances created, and has been voted player of the season for Germany in 5 of the past 6 years. Neither Ozil nor Sanchez appeared to have shown much desire to sign new contracts, with their current deals expiring at the end of the season. It is difficult to work out Ozil’s aspirations, but it seems that Sanchez is intent on leaving. The deal that was struck with Manchester City fell through after Wenger’s replacement in waiting, Thomas Lemar, rejected a deal to bring him to the Emirates.
With Sanchez extremely unlikely to sign a new contract, what Arsenal have done in effect is lost in the region of £60 million to keep a player for one season. Many might say that if Sanchez propels Arsenal back into the top 4 then it would be worth it, but with the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool looking strong, and Tottenham sure to settle at Wembley, it doesn’t appear a likely prospect. Such money could have been used to buy a new centre-back, and a replacement for Sanchez. Riyad Mahrez was most certainly available on deadline day, and would have provided goals and assists from the wing, although not as many as Sanchez- but then Lacazette was signed with the intention of taking away the reliance on Alexis. Or why didn’t Arsenal cash in on Sanchez and save the money to use in January where necessary, rather than selling Oxlade-Chamberlain? The departure of Sanchez may well have been enough to entice the Ox into staying, with the guarantee of more game time-last season Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas Perez, Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott all played out wide, with the latter 3 also deployed as a striker during some games. Except for Sanchez, none of these players started more than 23 games, and none enjoyed particularly exceptional seasons.
Arsenal Wide Attackers- 2016/17 Premier League Starts
Alexis Sanchez- 36
Theo Walcott- 23
Alex Iwobi- 18
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain- 16
Perhaps if Wenger decided on preferred positions for Welbeck and Sanchez (Lucas Perez left on deadline day), and gave an offensive group of players a regular run in the side, injury permitting, he might begin to reap the rewards. It’s worth noting that Arsenal spent most of last season playing 4-2-3-1 and have now switched to a variation of 3-4-3, so if Wenger sticks with this and the front three consists of Ozil, Lacazette and a returning Sanchez, this won’t be as much of an issue. Nevertheless, a lack of regular starting wide players most certainly did not help Arsenal last season.
If and when Sanchez returns to the Arsenal fold, Wenger must use him- having resigned Arsenal to losing him next summer there’s no point letting £60 million worth of talent rot in the stands.
Then again, maybe Sanchez isn’t the biggest issue- perhaps Wenger should have left in June, with a FA Cup in hand and a reputation just about intact.