A farewell letter to Alexis Sanchez from an Arsenal fan
I still remember the day you signed for Arsenal. The BBC headline, understated and staccato, simply said - Alexis Sanchez: Barcelona Forward signs for Arsenal. But the excitement amongst us fans was not so bland. We lost our collective minds. For us, the heavens parted, and god, his face glowing with heavenly light, smiled down upon us. This was the moment we had been waiting for. We were finally emerging from the ruins of Highbury. We were not going to be the kings of fourth place anymore. Arsene Wenger’s zipper, and people’s mouths, were finally going to be shut. This was going to be the new Arsenal. Tiki-taka 2.0.
Three years later, as our rivals challenge for and win trophies, we have slumped down to our lowest position in twenty years. It is the same ol’ same ol’ Arsenal, maybe even worse. What happened? Where did we go wrong? No, Alexis, you are not at fault. At least not completely. We have been ditched before. By people in whom we had invested far more. A left-footed magician who we carried through injury ravaged seasons paid us back by winning the title for our direct rivals. The Barcelona boy who had become a man at Arsenal did the same. Compared to them, you are no Judas.
Whenever you played for us, you played like a man playing for his very life. You chased hopeless balls like a bloodhound. There was no corner of the pitch which was bereft of your footprints. Short hitched up, thighs like greek columns, you stood on the pitch like a god. You scored goals which made us gasp. You were the answer to our prayers.
But then, and there is a but in every great tragedy, things turned sour. The conflict in this story was one of ambition. You wanted to win the premier league, the champions league, and Stan Kroenke was happy with the FA Cup and the community shield. In between the board and the fans, in between you and the glory you wanted, stood the sorry figure of a doomed Frenchman. Arsene Wenger, like grains in a flour mill, was being pulverised to fine dust. What secrets he carries inside his cobwebbed heart will only be revealed with a multi-million dollar autobiography deal.
Till then, we must put the blame on him. Because that is what the managers in the modern game are for. They are not their for tactical acumen, for developing a playing style, for grooming youngsters, for spending prudently; they are there to be blamed. David Moyes was destroyed by modern football, so was Louis Van Gaal and many others. And now you are planning to go to Manchester City, to play under another manager who might be the next victim of the relentless bloodlust of the modern game.
For all your greatness, you had the tendency to behave like a petulant child. You threw your arms in the air. You sank to your haunches. You thought you were bigger than the team. You thought you were special. But nobody is bigger than the club they play for. Players come and go, but the clubs and the fans remain.
Tomorrow when you vacate that shirt, you vacate a space in our hearts.
We will find another name to cheer for. Someone will fill your shoes. Someone always has. You might even help City win a title. But your glory will be short-lived. There will be no statues. Your name will not be passed from generation to generation. That honour is reserved for a few players. The Giggs’, the Henrys, and the Tottis’ of the world. You will become a footnote in the histories of a few great clubs. And if that is what you want, so be it.
Arsene Wenger, hopelessly deluded though he may be, is still a gentleman. He’ll try to make your exit as smooth as possible. So you needn’t worry on that front. It has been a pleasure cheering you along Alexis. But now get ready for the boos.
-An Arsenal Fan