Arsene Wenger says the uncertainty around Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil made things really difficult for the team this season and thinks Arsenal should have dealt with the situation earlier.
While Wenger admitted that Arsenal haven’t been good enough defensively, conceding that’s a large part of the reason Arsenal aren’t competing at the top of the table, he also pointed to Sanchez and Özil’s contract situations as another major contributing factor.
“We have not the defensive stability since the start of the season that you need to have to be completely efficient at our level,” Wenger explained.
“And as well there was a lot of uncertainty around the team with the Sanchez case, the Ozil case. For the whole season that was a really difficult case.”
‘We should’ve cut that earlier’
As for what they could’ve done differently to prevent that issue, Wenger suggested they should’ve sold Sanchez.
Arsenal held onto the Chilean last summer because they couldn’t bring anyone in. Looking back, the manager thinks that might’ve been a bad decision.
“In hindsight maybe despite the fact we couldn’t have brought somebody in we should have cut that earlier,” said Wenger.
“Sanchez, for him it was very difficult because as soon as he had a game that was average he was questioned about his commitment and that is not his case.
“When he is on the football pitch he wants to win. But it was a bit unfair to him I think. I never questioned his commitment but it was a difficult situation.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez seems pretty happy with how things panned out. He told Sky Sports: “I think that Manchester United, since I was young – and I’m not just saying this because I’m here, I’m an honest guy and I never lie – I think it’s the biggest club in England. That’s what I think.
“Manchester United are a huge club on the global stage. I came here to win everything. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come here.”
It’s harsh to judge the situation in hindsight, because no one really knew how things would pan out.
I’m sure selling Sanchez to Manchester City without a replacement would’ve brought plenty of fan criticism. Especially when City then raced to the top of the table with a long unbeaten run.
Perhaps Arsenal would be even worse off than they are now, and Özil wouldn’t have agreed a new deal.
In the end, Arsenal have come out of January with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and an Özil extension.
That likely wouldn’t be the case if the Chilean had left in the summer.
It was a tough situation either way, so what Arsenal need to do now is avoid getting into it next time.