Opinion: An unlikely return to Arsenal could rejuvenate Alexis Sanchez's career
It has been a season full of lows for Manchester United. The Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League, a massive 32 points behind the title winners and their arch-rivals, Manchester City. Apart from the statistics, the fans were left disappointed week in week out with the lack of desire and quality shown by the players.
One of the reasons for this collapse was the under-performance of their big-name recruits and Alexis Sanchez was on top of that list. The Chilean faced heavy criticism throughout the season for his poor performances which have resulted in several speculations hinting his exit from the club.
Before joining the Red Devils, the Chilean enjoyed a successful career, both at Barcelona and, in particular, Arsenal. He was a talisman for the Gunners for several seasons. Scoring 80 goals in 166 games under Arsene Wenger, he single-handedly carried the team on many occasions. But ever since his move to Old Trafford, things have not been the same for the Chilean attacker.
Sanchez was announced as a new player by Manchester United in January of 2018 amid much fanfare. The former Barcelona man went to Old Trafford as part of a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who joined Arsenal.
However, things were never the same for Sanchez at Manchester United. The forward struggled to find his feet under Jose Mourinho initially, going in and out of the team without sealing a spot for himself.
This season was no better. The 30-year-old contributed to just 6 goals, scoring 2 and creating 4 in 27 appearances under Jose Mourinho, and then, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. What added to the negativity surrounding him was the fact that he remains one of the best-paid players in the world and the highest at his current club.
But can the Chilean’s downfall be completely blamed on him or were there other factors which came into play?
Sanchez previously played under two managers, Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger. Both had a similar style of play and the winger’s attacking prowess and high work rate suited their philosophy.
Conversely, Sanchez’s first boss at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho, followed a pragmatic approach at Old Trafford. This made the transition difficult for the Chilean and after struggling for some time, the winger gradually lost his confidence and his place in the starting line-up. After the arrival of Solskjaer, it seemed that things would change for the good, but that did not happen as the former Barcelona man was not able to regain his previous goal scoring form and provide important contributions to the team in the hour of need.
“I'm not the one,” Solskjaer answered when asked what he could do to help Sanchez regain his form. “I can't do anything about Alexis Sanchez.”
With the Manchester United star on the brink of departure, former Arsenal player Lauren has suggested that a return to the Emirates may help the Chilean revive his form. At first, this situation seems unthinkable and unlikely, especially with the animosity between the Chilean winger and the Arsenal fans. Secondly, Sanchez’s humongous wages are a cause for concern as well, with no club willing to take such a costly a gamble on an underperforming player.
However, if you look at situations of both the club and the player, Lauren's statement does hold relevance.
Arsenal themselves have not been able to fully replace Sanchez. Alex Iwobi's relative inexperience and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's inconsistency has left the Gunners in a dire need of an out-and-out winger. Additionally, the Gunners need a figure who can bring in that drive, take control of the game and make things happen.
The 30 year-old winger can benefit playing under Unai Emery. The Spaniard's system revolves around a fast-paced expansive style of football and demands high work rate off the ball, something which the Chilean will enjoy as it completely aligns with his qualities and game style. During his time at Arsenal, Sanchez showcased that apart from his attacking prowess, he can provide defensive cover to the wing backs. If the Manchester United star is utilized properly, he can surely thrive under Emery's system at the Emirates.
With the Red Devils desperate to offload the player, he should be available at a cut-price but the biggest question will be, can Arsenal afford his wages or is the Chilean willing to take a pay cut in order to revive his career?
Even though the chances of this transfer move seem slim, if it happens, it will probably be the most talked about transfer for the coming years and potentially a decisive one for the Gunners.