Why Arsene Wenger can't afford to lose Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil

Alex Keble by Alex Keble / 27 October 2017, 15:36

When Arsene Wenger defied expectations over the summer by refusing Alexis Sanchez a move to Manchester City he made a bold statement of intent, albeit one which subsequent league performances have rendered rather pointless.

The Chilean has ambled around the pitch of late, muttering and grumbling as his team-mates exhibit familiar flaws and familiar results. It wasn’t a surprise, then, to learn a fortnight ago that Wenger will consider cashing in on his two star players, Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, in the January window rather than allow them to leave for free next summer. It is “possible”, he said.

How quickly things can change in football. Arsenal’s 5-2 victory over Everton last Sunday was a dramatic reminder of how devastating Ozil and Sanchez can be as a central attacking midfield duo - and why the club cannot entertain the prospect of losing either in January.

The win at Goodison Park was only the second time this season they had started together in the Arsenal attack, perhaps explaining their respective listlessness in 2017/18, and suggesting that happier times are on the horizon should both stay fit for the remainder of the campaign.

Ozil’s eight key passes at Everton was the highest figure of any Premier League player in a match this season while Sanchez was electric from the left, scurrying into the gaps created by the German’s elusive movement. It is a perfect partnership when firing, mixing tenacity with aloofness to bamboozle even the best central midfielders; it is testament to their creativity that even Idrissa Gueye was found scrambling to make recovery lunges, ultimately getting sent-off for two mistimed tackles.

None of this is new, but it is at least a reminder that Arsenal are entirely reliant on these two players. If either or both were to jump ship at the midway point of the season Arsenal’s top four challenge would completely collapse. Alexi Iwobi is a talented young player but, like Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, lacks the penetration of Sanchez or the sheer artistry of Ozil.

Arsenal are fortunate to sit fifth in the table, a position that does not reflect their performances whatsoever. Before the Everton win they had only tasted victory in their four home matches against Leicester City, West Brom, Bournemouth and Brighton, four of the worst teams in the division who have all struggled so far in 2017/18.

Wenger’s final two years are almost certain to end in failure and disappointment. His stagnant tactics and laissez-faire coaching have created an unmotivated dressing room; mistakes are not corrected and nobody feels pressure to improve. The Frenchman’s only hope is to rely on the magic of individuals, meaning the sale of their two stars in January (at a time when, with an inflated market, Arsenal won’t be able to sign replacements) could have a devastating impact. A mid-table finish is not impossible.

Sanchez is clearly desperate to leave the club, but he’ll have to hang on for now. Arsenal desperately need the Chilean to drag them through one more year.

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