Yesterday, Manchester United and Arsenal simultaneously announced a swap deal between Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in one of the weirdest January transfers in recent memory.
Arsenal fans (cher boy) have become pretty used to seeing their best players leave for greener pastures. Alexis has followed Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, and to a lesser extent, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in dipping from the Emirates because they had higher soccer (and financial) goals.
The Alexis deal feels slightly different. I mean, seeing him in that stupid United shirt at that stupid stadium in the dumb Twitter video yesterday hurt me deeply, but Alexis’ situation had become so untenable at Arsenal that seeing him leave comes with a little relief.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 22, 2018
That video is SO DUMB!
Regardless, Alexis and Arsenal were on a collision course with the player’s contract expiring in the summer and no indication that he was willing to re-sign, the London club had to do something.
And getting Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of the deal seems… pretty solid. It wouldn’t really be acceptable at all in general, but with Alexis’ contract saga tying Arsenal’s hands, Mkhitaryan is a really good player who has been mistreated and mismanaged at United, perhaps he can rediscover his best form at Arsenal.
Let’s take a look at how this deal works out for both teams.
Manchester United get firepower they need
This is clearly a knockout deal for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. No matter how you slice it, adding Alexis Sanchez to a team that’s already loaded with talent is a truly exciting prospect for United fans.
It’ll be interesting to see how Mourinho uses Alexis. The Chilean can play across the front line, usually deployed either on the left or through the middle as a striker, but United currently have the red-hot Anthony Martial on the left and £75 million summer singing Romelu Lukaku up front.
You’d suppose that Jesse Lingard would be the odd man out in United’s forward line, but the English winger has been somewhat of a revelation this season, with 7 goals to his tally thus far.
Perhaps Mou will sacrifice a little steel in midfield and deploy Alexis up front alongside or behind Lukaku in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1. However Manchester United and Mourinho decide to use Alexis, he adds serious goal threat, he totaled 30 goals and 15 assists in all competitions last season.
And United, who are currently 2nd in the Premier League Table and 12 points off rival Manchester City, need some extra goal threat. With 49 goals in 24 games, United are 21 goals behind City’s tally. Any Jose Mourinho side will be solid in defense, but with Alexis on the squad, United have added some necessary firepower to a team that hasn’t exactly been scoring for fun.
It’s extremely difficult to find a negative in this deal for United. They’ve offloaded a player in Henrikh Mkhitaryan who, despite his obvious talents, didn’t work in Mourinho’s highly regimented system. Mkhitaryan had only started one Premier League game since early November and United have simply swapped an unused player for a world class player in Alexis and paid nothing in return. It’s perfect business really for a club that hopes to return to their previous glory.
Alexis has a tendency to be a little selfish and improvise on his own. Perhaps Jose Mourinho will have some trouble instilling his disciplinary philosophies into the Chilean, but I feel like I’m just grasping at straws here.
The one slightly worrying issue with the deal are the massive wages United are reportedly paying Alexis. Soccer transfers and wages are secretive by nature and no one really knows how much these dudes make, but the reported £450,000 per week wage for Alexis dwarfs every other player in the league, including United’s Paul Pogba.
If Pogba and the rest of United’s stars suddenly feel they should be earning more money, United could find themselves in a sticky situation, but, that isn’t likely.
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) January 22, 2018
However, a massive negative for United, and everyone really, is that Jesse Lingard is the worst.
— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) January 22, 2018
It’s hard for me to analyze anything related to Arsenal with reason and necessary level-headedness, but I will try.
So, Arsenal have sold (arguably) their best player to one of their biggest rivals (and just the most annoying club ever) and gotten back a really good player who hasn’t been really good recently in return.
Seeing Alexis go to Old Trafford is brutal. But it’s just something that I’ve become used to as an Arsenal fan. I’ve seen my favorite players of bygone eras (Henry, Cesc, RVP, Nasri, Adebayor) leave the club to achieve their ambitions.
I’ve learned how to become numb to it, to turn my back on the latest player to leave, call him a “snake” and go back to watching Arsenal find new and exciting ways to break my heart every weekend as former players go on to win trophies and make more money at their new clubs.
I have enjoyed every second of watching Alexis Sanchez in an Arsenal shirt. He’s one of the most exciting and captivating soccer players on the planet. But, as mentioned before, he can be a little single-minded in his playing style, often taking offensive possessions into his own hands, dribbling wildly into a mass of defenders. In this sense, Alexis’ style has slightly fractured the once cohesive, quick-passing moves that Arsenal have become known for during Arsene Wenger’s tenure these past two decades.
Perhaps with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a more cerebral, technical, and nuanced player, Arsenal can recapture the style of the ‘Wengerball’ era. Mkhitaryan was one of the best playmakers in the world when he was sold to Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2016.
Arsenal were reportedly interested in the Armenian before United offered more money. Mkhitaryan and Wenger are mutual admirers of each other, they have similar philosophies for how soccer should be played, so there is something exciting about adding Mhki to this current Arsenal side.
The prospect of Mkhitaryan partnering up with Mesut Ozil in one of the most creative duos in world soccer is certainly intriguing. As are the recent links to Mkhitaryan’s former Dortmund teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal reportedly have their negotiating team in Dortmund to seal a deal for the electric Gabonese striker. Bringing in Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang to fill the void left by Alexis would actually be some really (surprisingly) solid business from Arsenal (which means it probably won’t happen).
11+7 💪 pic.twitter.com/xszzRxuyRs
— Ed Jones (@Edd_Jones_) January 23, 2018
At the end of the day, I just want to enjoy watching Arsenal play again. Once known as the most aesthetically pleasing team in England with a team built on fast-paced, quick-moving attacks, Arsenal are now a disjointed mess in both attack in defense.
The first match without Alexis, a 4-1 drubbing of Crystal Palace in which Arsenal netted 4 goals in the first 20 minutes, showed some serious promise. Perhaps the distraction of Alexis’ future had become poisonous to the morale of the team, as has been (slightly dubiously) reported.
Ultimately, it’s gonna really suck to see Alexis in a United shirt. He’s going to be awesome for them. I just hope Arsenal will be fun again.
Never forget that sports are the worst.