A catalyst. A sign of excellence. The embodiment of the beauty over the horizon. A diminutive Chilean stepped onto the Emirates canvas for the first time, an eruption of euphoria ensues. “This is the man, it has to be” Arsenal fans say to themselves. Mesmerising onlookers, the Gunners number 17 swivels, a motion by which defies all logic. Excitement pulsates through the veins of fans throughout the globe. The FA cup was home, where it belonged, and Sanchez was armed to drive us into war, a rigorous battle. Like a dog off its leash, Alexis charges around the pitch a free man, determined to craft art, to enshrine his name amongst the greats.
Four years go by, Manchester United beckons, and he trudges away from the battlefield a defeated man. The match was supposed to be perfection, Arsenal made the player the vocal point, and Sanchez in return was to drag us to a league title. Right? Well, what started as poetry in motion ended up falling to its knees. Who’s at fault, the player or the club? Well, both.
When push comes to shove, the Chilean’s output was incredible in an Arsenal shirt. 80 goals and 41 assists in 166 games is phenomenal. Subtract that output from any team, inevitability worry will consume fans and pundits alike. Alexis’ explosive nature dragged the Gunners when they were down, worn out, and looked to be trudging towards a catastrophic defeat or draw. That was the Alexis Sanchez Arsenal fans fell in love with, the Alexis Sanchez idolised by millions, the Alexis Sanchez whose name was sung rapturously as he rifled the ball into the back of the net.
This Chilean died along the line. Ruthless pressing turned to childish complaining, intricate passing turned to wayward passing, mesmeric dribbling turned to stagnant swivels with no purpose. The sacrifice of ‘Wengerball’ at the expense of Alexis backfired. Poetic football was replaced with dynamism. Intricacy replaced with deluded passing. It speaks volumes that no player has been dispossessed more since 2014 in the Premier League than Sanchez (276).
The adored ‘passion’ may have won over fans for a while, but the reality that unravelled showed an egomaniac focused on individual goals as opposed to the common good. One need only to look to the constant tantrums the Chilean throws when subbed off, or the perverse smile on the bench when the Gunners were 5-0 down to Bayern Munich. What initially was the embodiment of a brighter future for the Emirates transitioned to having a team built around a megalomaniac. It serves as no surprise he sought to throw club legend Thierry Henry under the bus. The energetic and vibrant Chilean turned to a figure of insidious hatred. Refusal to acknowledge Arsene Wenger, the man who took bullet after bullet for him in press conferences says it all.
Arsenal are better off in his absence. In Mkhitaryan, there is a player who desires to be at the club, a player moulded to the excellency of ‘Wengerball’. The artistry tainted by the Chilean in the last 18 months is in restoration, and whilst the damage may not be repairable this season, the restoration project has commenced. Whether the Gunners are able to add further reinforcements in the form of Aubameyang is yet to be known. Uncertainty toyed with the heart strings of the Arsenal faithful, shaking the club to the core. Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan may well be the tools needed to restore the philosophy Arsene and Arsenal represent.
Only time will tell whether the project restoration is a success. Art is unique; it should be embraced and admired. Untold stories have been lost through the disintegration of art. Arsenal have an opportunity to restore one of football’s greatest pieces, an opportunity that may not present itself for a long time.