Why keeping Alexis Sánchez was the best thing Arsenal did this past summer
The summer transfer was a drawn-out process for Alexis Sánchez, and in the end, he did not get his move away from Arsenal to, preferably, Manchester City, but it was the right decision for the Gunners to keep hold of him.
Arsenal might lose the Chilean superstar on a free transfer next summer, and he is able to sign a pre-contract with foreign clubs from January onwards, but they will hope to get one more year’s worth of Sánchez playing at his highest level.
Arsène Wenger is under more pressure than he has ever been to deliver success to Arsenal, especially given the dropout from the Champions League to the Europa League.
We have seen the Gunners struggle at times already this season, but they have gone on a winning streak to get them closer to the summit of the league. After sustaining a strained abdominal injury in pre-season, Sánchez has returned to the team and has slowly been reintroduced to first-team football.
It was clear that the Chilean wanted to leave the Emirates this summer, but it was an important statement of intent from Arsenal to in fact keep him at the club for another year. They would not want a similar scenario to happen with Sánchez as it did with Robin van Persie, where he goes to a direct rival and wins the Premier League - that would be disastrous.
While Sánchez might have only contributed a goal and two assists in seven appearances, it is the presence of him being there which makes the team raise their level of performance to match his.
He is now getting back up to speed and should start playing 90-minute games under Wenger. In his last match, against Brighton, he played a fantastic through-ball into Alex Iwobi’s path to make the score 2-0. It just showed a small glimpse of the quality he can produce week in, week out.
It now looks inevitable that Sánchez will leave Arsenal next summer and not sign a contract extension, but for another year’s work, the Gunners would rather get back into the Champions League, rather than cash in for a player that is invaluable to them.
While Arsenal signed a fantastic centre-forward in Alexandre Lacazette, keeping ahold of Sánchez was their best bit of business over the summer. It sent a clear message to their rivals that they will not be manipulated in selling their star players, and they are serious about rejoining the elite clubs in England.
Sánchez is starting to warm up for the season and when he reaches top gear there is very little any defence can do. He is electric when operating at the highest level, and with the added bonus of having Lacazette, Arsenal could have a serious strike force raring to go.
The Gunners’ best bet for Champions League qualification is through the Europa League - emulating the steps Manchester United took last season. While the quality is considerably weaker compared to the Champions League, it is a perfectly viable route to go down and achieve the same goal as finishing in the top four in the Premier League.
Wenger’s men will find it difficult to finish in top four this season, given the strength of teams around them, but they should go on a cup run in their favoured FA Cup and really excel in the Europa League.
Keeping Sánchez at the club was by no means an easy achievement, and Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, is worthy of any praise that comes his way. The likelihood of the situation is that he is likely to leave next summer, but if they can squeeze every last performance out of him, it will have been worth it.