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Monday night saw the culmination of not only one of this season’s biggest Premier League sagas, but also perhaps the most complicated transfer in recent years. Arsenal finally came to the conclusion that keeping hold of star striker Alexis Sanchez brought more difficulties than benefits, and the Chilean has across the country to the red half of Manchester to join up with Jose Mourinho at United. While no direct transfer fee was negotiated between the two clubs, the transfer will cost the Red Devils a reported fee of £180 million, considering Sanchez’s wages of around £500,000 a-week after tax and the £15 million fee to his representatives. What’s more is that United have offloaded midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to North London as part of the deal, creating a widespread debate as to who has performed the smarter business here, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, or Mourinho’s United? Below is our take on this…
Sanchez the Special One for José
There’s no doubt that Manchester United have themselves a world class player to add to their attack. Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku have been finding the target regularly while Anthony Martial has scored some important goals in crucial games this year. Sanchez will bring in a new dimension to really piece this strike force together (see below) as his ability to hold onto the ball, score from distance, and take players on makes him a perfect addition to this United team, without having to remove one of the aforementioned existing United players from the starting line-up. Add the likes of Marcus Rashford and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to affect matches from the substitutes bench and an argument can be made to say that Mourinho has the league’s best strike force at his abundance.
However, a problem which could arise is his ego, especially in this Manchester United dressing room. During his Arsenal tenure, Alexis was often accused of trying to do it all himself, and the stats support these accusations. The Chilean gave the ball away 656 times last season, over a hundred more than the next most wasteful player (Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke – little surprise there), and this trend has continued into this campaign. He has the third worst passing accuracy (73%) in the Arsenal side this season, only ahead of Olivier Giroud and Petr Cech (who takes goals kicks remember), with his former Gunners superstar-teammate Mesut Ozil on 87%. Mourinho will have to drill this out of him if he is to be successful at Old Trafford, and the United manager will be hoping to avoid a similar situation to the Lukaku-Ibrahimovic problem that occurred earlier this year, as the Swede’s return to full training sparked the beginning of Lukaku’s barren run, as the latter was affected by the ego and attitude of his fellow team-mate.
Arsenal Need to Rebuild
Despite losing a player who scored just a score under 100 goals for them in only three and a half seasons, it’s clear a weight has been taken off the Arsenal player’s shoulders. This was obvious to see on Saturday when the Gunners blitzed Crystal Palace with four goals in the opening quarter of the game, just hours after Alexis had said his goodbyes to his teammates to complete his transfer in the hotel the night before. On top of this, not a single player wished Sanchez luck at Manchester United on social media, whereas fellow January leavers such as Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin were ambushed with tributes and good wishes at their new clubs. Therefore, this shows that the Chilean caused some bad harmony at the North London club, and that Arsenal can look to rebuild from this departure.
What is impressive from the North London side is that they have managed to find a ready-made replacement for Sanchez without having to break the bank. While Mkhitaryan is inferior to Alexis in terms of goals over the last eighteen months, the Armenia captain has a similar assist-to-game ratio compared to Sanchez, as well as a higher shooting accuracy percentage. On top of this, if Arsenal manage to add Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to their ranks, as is widely reported in the European and UK press, then the Gunners have an attacking that brought about 62 goals between them in their last Bundesliga season together in 2015-16. While the Gunners will struggle to replace the tenacity and energy of Alexis Sanchez, they may just find more positives than negatives in this lucrative swap deal.
We think that both sides have made some very good business over this transfer saga, but what do you think? Can Arsenal really replace Sanchez? Is Mkhitaryan the right replacement? And can United get the best out of Sanchez? Let us know in the comments below.