Would you rather sell Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez?
Some questions eat you up inside.
In particular, I’m talking about questions where you are given two alternatives, both of which are highly undesirable. My husband is particularly fond of asking them – apparently he likes watching me squirm.
If you could only play one sport ever again, would you rather give up netball or badminton? If you could only eat one type of treat ever again, would you choose chocolate or ice cream? And if your life depended on it, would you rather spend a day in a bath of creepy crawlies or a night in a bath of rats?
Neither. The answer is always neither. I won’t play your silly games.
Sometimes, though, it’s still interesting to ask the question. Let’s say Arsenal have to – or want to – sell a player.
Would you rather sell Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez?
Clearly the correct answer, again, is neither. And you can drop your silly games off at the charity shop on your way out. Any club with designs on titles and trophies cannot afford to let its best players walk out the door; not if they want to keep their credibility.
That said, Alexis and Mesut offer almost polar opposite options for Arsenal Football Club. With great power comes great responsibility, or perhaps I should say, with a great price tag comes great expectation.
Both are powerful footballers in their own way, but they address those expectations in a very different manner.
Atlas – a god amongst men
Alexis Sanchez likes to carry the blazing torch. When the chips are down, it’s Alexis gesticulating and urging teammates on. When things are going well, it’s Alexis leading from the front with his cheeky grin. He’s always busy, always involved.
He is the player in our side with by far the greatest likelihood of creating something from nothing. He is the only Arsenal man who could have scored the goal we conceded to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. But he’s also the worst culprit for occasionally sabotaging the team by trying to be the hero, instead of making the right decision.
He has energy to burn, he sets the pace of our attacks, and he leads our defensive press. But sometimes the brightest flames burn quickest. At times this season, he has looked out on his feet as he looks to do too much by himself. In those moments, you can see why Barcelona allowed him to leave. Like Atlas, a god condemned to hold the sky up for eternity, he takes the weight of the world on his shoulders.
However, it is that same selfishness which makes him such an indispensable part of our team. When those around him are sometimes over-complicating things trying to fashion the perfect chance, Alexis will take a game by the scruff of the neck, try something out of the ordinary, and add that element of unpredictability. It’s so important in facilitating our occasionally too methodical play, keeping oppositions on their toes.
Magician not miracle worker
Mesut Ozil is almost the diametric opposite. The ultimate team player, he is altruistic to a fault, and he plays with more predictability but such flawless execution that often the opposition can do nothing about it.
The problem with Mesut is that when the team plays well, he plays well. Heck, when the team plays well, he plays out of this world. But when the team doesn’t play well, his game also suffers. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense.
His game is all about serving others, so if they aren’t making runs for him to find, he can’t influence the game to the same extent. That happened against Watford, against Hull, at a number of other games this season. He’s a magician, but he’s not a miracle worker. He can only work with the materials he’s given.
His body language might look terrible, but it’s consistent. He works hard, but only when he needs to; he doesn’t run for the sake of running, or to be seen running. At times, even when he is celebrating goals, he looks like he’s in pain. His style is languid, but there’s little to read into it. The only exception is when he lets his frustration at his own performances show. This is a man who holds himself to high standards.
The reality is, we need players like both Alexis and Mesut in our team. The conductor with the macro focus and the individual with the micro. The introvert and the extrovert. The creator and the finisher.
Every team needs yin and yang, and it also needs world class players. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil provide both in spades to this Arsenal team.
There is plenty of room for improvement in other areas of the squad, and indeed the wider club, but trying to replace one or both of our star-studded names isn’t the solution. Even if you find a replacement who is fractionally better, the margins for improvement are so small as to be negligible. Meanwhile, if you improve upon the weakest player in the squad, the impact of a change is vastly enhanced.
Neither might be playing at their peak right now, but Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are two of the best players we’ve ever had the privilege of watching in the red and white. So let’s take these silly conundrums about which of our biggest signings we’d prefer to offload, and stick them where they belong – in the gutter.
We don’t want to choose and, moreover, we don’t have to choose.
In any case, I’ve found a way to stop the questions at source. My husband can’t devise his choices from hell when I have a conundrum of my own which he can’t answer: Would you prefer to give up Disney or Spurs? Personally, I don’t know why he finds it so difficult!