30 goals and 19 assists last season prompted Manchester City to target Alexis Sanchez in a protracted deal which eventually fell through on transfer deadline day. The Chilean was furious, his representatives were left reeling and Arsenal were left in a position where Sanchez’s potential replacement – Thomas Lemar – opted to reject the Gunners and Liverpool due to the last-minute nature of the transfer war over his signature.
Five months on and the Alexis ‘gamble’ has quite simply backfired on manager Arsene Wenger, who has consistently backed the Chilean’s ‘professionalism’ all season. Stories of player unrest towards Sanchez has been overplayed, especially when you consider a team like Chelsea managing to win the Premier League with the divisive Diego Costa in their ranks. What will be of more concern for Wenger is Sanchez’s increasingly lax attitude in possession and, crucially, the fact that he is contributing less now than he did at the same point last season.
Pep Guardiola’s likely decision to wait until the summer to bid for Sanchez means Arsenal are almost certainly going to miss out on a transfer fee for the forward. It’s common knowledge that the 29-year-old wants to leave – but who is going to take him in January? Paris Saint-Germain may have tentative interest while Bayern Munich aren’t a likely destination even if Arturo Vidal plays for them - it is worth noting that Vidal is a player whom Alexis is not close friends with despite sharing the same agent and national team dressing room.
One of the main reasons he isn’t replicating his previous form is almost certainly due to Wenger’s decision to play him on the left instead of as a centre forward. The signing of Alexandre Lacazette means that Sanchez rarely gets a run through the middle unless they interchange positions – and with Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck both fighting for game time in a similar role it’s become clear that Wenger prefers his £52m club record signing up top in his favoured position.
Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho has seven assists in his last 13 matches and in stark contrast to Sanchez, appears to look settled on the pitch - even after having his head turned by Barcelona. Coutinho went one step further than Sanchez by handing in a transfer request and, while his contract isn’t set to expire at the end of the season, many have pointed out that his contribution on the pitch hasn’t been affected whatsoever by the uncertainty across the summer.
“Sanchez looks to me like he’s clocked off,” Arsenal legend Ian Wright said on BBC Radio Five Live .
“His attitude is saying a lot about him. If he could have gone in January, the way he’s playing now, I can’t see how that’s gonna hurt Arsenal.
“He’s not playing well enough, he’s not putting in a shift.
“I know Coutinho’s not coming to the end of his contract but Coutinho did want to leave. He made it clear, he put a transfer request in.
“Look at the way he’s playing, look at the way Ozil’s playing. The fact is you’ve got to still put it in.
“It says a lot about him. For people looking in, who are potential buyers, what are they thinking about him and his attitude?”
Four goals in 15 league appearances this season is a tally Sanchez certainly won’t be happy with, and with his tantrums and complaining on the pitch increasing game by game there is no surprise that Arsenal shelved contract talks with his agent months ago.
In comparison, Mesut Ozil is a player the club have identified as wanting to keep after initially holding informal talks with the German’s representative last season.
If Sanchez can learn from two players this season then Ozil and Coutinho are certainly up here, and the latter will be desperate to show his South American counterpart who the Premier League’s most professional wantaway forward is on Friday night when Arsenal face Liverpool.