Will they? Won’t they? What does it all mean for Arsenal FC? Are we still a ‘big club’? So many questions, so few games remaining, so much uncertainty.
Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil remain our two most important and valuable players, which is why it is integral for them to be kept on to build the team around. But I’m here to talk about what it would mean if they didn’t sign. I can see the motivation for wanting a move; Trophies, Money, Career progression in short. However what both players clearly thrive on are to be the main men at their clubs. Ozil seems ok playing second fiddle to Alexis, however is revered by our fan base and therefore loves playing for Arsenal Football Club. Alexis knows that he’s our most important player and thrives on the responsibility that we heap on his shoulders. He loves that. Pep Guardiola had recently said of Alexis that he really wanted to be the difference maker at Barcelona and while he did contribute in a big way whilst there, he was always going to be second fiddle to Lionel Messi. That’s what any player has to understand when moving to Barcelona. And so he moved to pastures new, finding the perfect blend at Arsenal. Or so he thought.
In the last two months we’ve seen that the team and quite possibly the manager is going through a transitional phase. It’s almost as if the club has been left to float in an uncomfortable space whilst minds are made up at the very top as to the direction of Arsenal from the summer onward. This is what has led to a delay in the contracts being signed. This as well as both players trying to get as much money as possible for their last ‘big’ contract at a truly competitive club anyway. There will likely be big money offers as their careers disappear into the sunset from China and the MLS in a few years from now, however the next contract is the one that is the most significant of their careers. They will want to know who their new manager is, they will also want to know if they fit the managers plans (I can’t imagine this being an issue in all honesty unless we have a manager who writes for a tabloid) and they’ll also want to know what the transfer plans are for the summer to ensure that Arsenal remain competitive. All of that as well as a bumper new contract. It’s not just a question of one or two elements, there are a lot of moving parts and therefore a lot of room for deliberation exists, not to mention the uncertainty that surrounds the manager.
But let’s just say that they don’t sign and they do look for moves away. Alexis Sanchez has 18 months left on his contract and therefore we can look to get around £60-70m for a player of his calibre in today’s market. The Clubs that he could join in my view are PSG, Bayern Munich, Man City & Chelsea. He’s done Italy and Spain, seems to like the Premier League intensity but also wants to win the biggest prizes. Whilst the lure of Pep at City would probably be his favoured destination were he to leave I just don’t think we will be held to ransom by another English club. He fits at Chelsea where he would probably take Pedro’s role, however again I just don’t think that we will be held to ransom as we’ve seen in the past. The most likely destinations are Bayern or PSG and Bayern tend to be more sensible in their transfer offers therefore I think that PSG would be the only realistic option both for him and Arsenal. They would pay the required money and have the lure of potential success.
As far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, I genuinely think that he is truly happy here and more importantly truly happy playing for Arsene Wenger. However if he were also to leave we would look to command at least £50m for the worlds most creative number 10. His list of suitors would be similar to that of Alexis Sanchez. Madrid may want him back, Bayern would indeed love him there, PSG also another option but I can’t see that any English clubs would be after him. The only other team whose style he suits could be Man Utd as he’s played under Mourinho previously, but they already have Pogba and Mkhitaryan who are number 10s that aren’t being played in their position. As well as this there’s just no way that we would sell to an English club.
The combined transfer fees would look like £110m in addition to the £100m warchest being banded about, which would mean a lot of new faces and a massive squad rebuild. I almost think that if this were the case it would be the perfect way to bring in a new manager as well. He could truly put his stamp on the squad and shape it in exactly the way he wants. The squad, in my opinion, is good enough to be competing and the players are only just now showing signs of fight. We all know that Wenger cares profusely for the club, however just how much can he get out of this squad going beyond this season? If Wenger is to stay he must ensure that he keeps a hold of both Ozil and Alexis, as if they both do leave, it will be Wenger that puts his own £200m stamp on a squad that won’t be his for more than 2 years afterwards. That would be grossly unfair and unjust on the incoming new manager, whenever that may be and would cause a longer term imbalance to the squad. That in itself is not The Arsenal way.
In my opinion both players will indeed stay as well as Arsene Wenger and the rebuild will be set for another time. Of the above scenarios, if keeping both players means keeping Wenger for a little bit more then I say it’s the right thing to do. Whatever happens we are in for an intense summer. A lot of plates remain spinning and we need to ensure that the right people are in place both on and off the pitch to ensure none of them come crashing down.