Whither Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal Football Club?
The way the media has spun this story since last May, not surprisingly, those who are most prone to their deceptions and fakeries, must be feeling like John Denver in “Leaving on a jet plane”:
“All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die”
According to the fakers, his suitcases are now packed for PSG, a few days earlier it was City, and prior to that it was Bayern. Disbelieve me at your peril.
In preparation for this piece, on Saturday afternoon EST, I did a quick search of Google News and in 45 seconds there were 2,500,000 hits on Alexis and his rumored transfer. As any informed person should know by now, Google is not being altruistic in generating this data. This is certainly one way of convincing advertisers they can gain the attention of those millions of eyeballs consuming the equivalent of transfer “junk food.” It is no wonder Alphabet Corporation, Google’s parent company, dominates the multi-billion on-line advertising space.
I am not for one moment blaming Google for this sorry state of news reporting, specifically sports coverage. With very few exceptions, like their political brethren, football journos and their bosses have decided facts be damned in the pursuit of a juicy transfer rumor. It is all about ratings whether in electronic or print media. Just as bad or even worse are the online websites and their twitter offspring who multiply like weeds at this time of the year. One can easily assume they are profiting from the increased web traffic during transfer season. Those of my readers, not using an adblocker when browsing, are suckers for pop-ups selling you dildos and sexy anime apart from being at risk for malware.
To understand the commercial benefit of peddling transfer rumors take for example the top listings, ranked by popularity, by Google from my 45-second search:
“PSG increasingly confident of signing Neymar and Alexis Sánchez” (Guardian)
“Arsenal transfer news: Alexis Sanchez to PSG, official bid to be made” (Fox Sports)
“Arsene Wenger attempts to ward off rivals’ interest in Alexis Sanchez” (Independent)
“Arsene Wenger adamant Alexis Sanchez won’t join PSG” (ESPN FC)
“Alexis Sanchez meets PSG chief ahead of €50m move” (Goal.com)
Nearly 8 hours after Arsene Wenger’s clear and unambiguous statement that reports of Alexis meeting with PSG was “…only media imagination”, with the unusual exception of ESPN FC, both the mainstream media and, renown rumor-monger, Goal.com were still peddling the bullsh*t that Alexis Sanchez could be in both Chile and France at the same time. Moreover how could he, without the club’s permission, be discussing personal terms relative to his transfer, which is one of the biggest violations of the rules and regulations governing player contracts. This could not only land him in trouble but also put PSG at risk of a transfer ban as happened earlier to Barcelona and only recently to Athletico Madrid.
The facts is, as of the time of posting this blog, nobody knows, with perhaps the exception of Arsene Wenger, whether Alexis will be staying or leaving Arsenal Football Club this transfer window. Admittedly his future is somewhat up in the air.
The first sign publicly of his unhappiness or disgruntlement with the club is the strop he threw in February after the first of two defeats to Bayern Munich in last year’s champions league. It amuses me no-end to read and listen pundits and journos claim Alexis was let down by the rest of the squad in that game. The fact is, he was relatively ineffective, coughing up possession on several occasions leading to dangerous counter-attacks by the Bavarians. Sounds familiar? This is despite his elevation by the media as a world class player who is a game-changer at this level. Have we forgotten the funny faces and contemptuous smiles he made after he was substituted?
In the subsequent week there were reports of him being part of a bust-up on the training ground. While the manager has never confirmed, it was self-evident that as a consequence he was benched for the start of an important PL game with Liverpool which followed thereafter. The fact that Arsenal lost that game added to the media myth of the indispensable Alexis, as if he was not part of both Bayern losses and a good many others.
Since the February-March decline in its fortunes, the media had been doing its level best to create a climate of doom and gloom around the club featuring the supposed denouement of Arsene Wenger as manager and the eventual departure of both Sanchez and Ozil, the club’s two best players. Apparently the two stars plan to not renew their contracts as they go into their final year because they are earth-shatteringly disappointed that AFC did not qualify for the champions league.
Has it struck anyone that none of the predictions made last April-May by the mainstream media and like-minded bloggers, tweeters and podcasters concerning the imminent demarche of Arsenal Football Club and Arsene Wenger has come to pass? None. Nada. Zilch.
The media has so carefully constructed a narrative of doom and gloom, it seems they have no choice but to continue promotion of rumors, half-truths and downright lies about Alexis.
As anybody who follows me on twitter knows, this defenestration of the media does not mean I am a fanboy of the Chilean. To the contrary, I support those who think his individualistic tendency does more harm than good to the way Arsenal plays. Specially concerning to me is his desire to drop into the midfield to demand the ball but thereafter lose possession because of his less than 70% pass completion rate. This, in my opinion, is detrimental to team balance in both attack and defense.
But one cannot deny the importance of his 33 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. Of 77 PL goals by Arsenal last season Alexis contributed 24 or 31%. Until Arsenal can replace those goals it would be foolhardy to lose his services.
It seems to me the club is preparing for any eventuality. Surely it is not a coincidence that the service of Lacazette was secured early in the transfer window for a club record transfer fee of £49 million. Usually Arsenal will be conservative in its valuation of a player and take the negotiations into the ultimate week of the transfer window. Another significant piece of information is the public admission by Ivan Gazidis, when in Australia, that the club was club was trying to attract Thomas Lemar from Monaco is also evidence that a wide player to supplement or replace Alexis is being sought.
But I give Wenger the benefit of the doubt. He knows better than almost anyone how risky it is to depend on new players coming from a different league to come up to speed and to immediately produce. Without big money to spend, he took some pretty big risks in the past and was able to scramble into the champions league. In recent years he has repeatedly proclaimed, to those who would listen, that the PL is getting tougher and tougher as the so-called small clubs are acquiring better players and coaches etc.
I therefore take him at his word that he wants to keep Alexis for the final year of his contract and not sell him to a domestic or foreign club. In the summer of 2003 he convinced Patrick Vieira, who was agitating for a transfer, to commit for a final year. Patrick renewed his contract and stayed. The rest, as we all know, is history.
By the way, two years later Patrick did get the big move he had been agitating for. Wenger appears convinced he can do something as big with Alexis.
If the Chilean does, however, refuse to extend his contract and agitate for a transfer, all bets are off. There is no way the board (big decisions are not down solely to Wenger) will easily allow him to walk for a free with 50 million in English or European currencies on the table. Only clubs with humongous non-football sources of revenue such as United, Chelsea and City can easily treat 30-40-50 million as monopoly money. At the end of the day football is a business, not a hobby. Owners, shareholders, managers must look toward the long-term interest of the club not only the short-term gratification of fans.
Happily we are not at that point yet. But the day of reckoning is coming sooner or later. There are 5 weeks more in the transfer window. That is almost a lifetime in football. Stay tuned.