Paul Merson doesn’t often talk sense but he might have accidentally struck gold when he said Mesut Ozil helped Alexis Sanchez look good.
Alexis has struggled since leaving Arsenal to become the best paid Premier League player in the division when he signed for Manchester United. He has just three goals since moving north in January (and six assists) in 21 matches. That’s the same number of Manchester United goals as yellow cards.
Contrast that to the 80 goals (and 45 assists) he got for Arsenal in 166 games and you can see there is a problem somewhere. At his current rate, across the same number of games, Alexis would score 23 and assist just 47 for Jose Mourinho.
So, is that down to Mesut Ozil?
If you are in anyway sensible you would assume Merson was going to talk about Ozil’s delivery and his ability to find a player with a remarkable pass. As we know, however, sense rarely plays any part in what Merson says.
“He [Ozil] isn’t going to run around like Sanchez did for Arsenal when he gives the ball away and chases 50 yards back,” Merson told TalkSPORT which is, technically, not an accurate statement as Ozil chases back regularly.
“In a way, he made Sanchez a better player. The fans loved Sanchez because he would lose the ball but run 30 yards back and tackle. The fans were saying why doesn’t Ozil do that?
“But Ozil doesn’t do that because he doesn’t give the ball away as many times.”
As you can see from that quote, although Merson hits gold with the sentiment that Ozil made Alexis a better player (the reasons why are obvious), he says it for totally ridiculous reasons. He’s basically saying Ozil’s laziness made Alexis look better which is 100% balls.
There are, no doubt, many reasons why Alexis has failed to find his Arsenal form with United. One of the main ones is his form in London was an aberration over the course of his career so it was always going to be incredibly hard to recreate.
Turning 30 in the middle of this season, it’s hard to see how Alexis can get better than he was during 16/17 although at this point I’m sure most United fans would accept him simply being better.
But that might never happen.
As I’ve mentioned before in other posts on here, including before Alexis moved, players who score more than 20 goals regularly are a very rare commodity and Alexis Sanchez has never been in that bracket.
His 30-goal season for Arsenal out was the best season he’s ever had as a professional. Last season he should have built on that.
Instead, he spent half of it sulking about not being allowed to move to Manchester City and not making the World Cup. He switched off at Arsenal and hasn’t been able to restart himself at United since.
Manchester United and their fans will be hoping they see the best of Alexis Sanchez this season but his past performances are no guarantee of anything. Sadly, they don’t even hint at a player who is just waiting to burst out with 20 goals a season for the next four years:
The biggest fear Arsenal fans had was that Alexis would go to United and do what Robin van Persie did. But they shouldn’t have worried. That outcome was always more unlikely than the Chilean having a relatively ordinary season punctuated with a sprinkling of magic moments.
At the minute, however, you get the feeling that United fans would take even that.
There is also a long history of players moving from Arsenal looking for greener pastures only to find themselves waist-deep in shit.
Thomas Vermaelen couldn’t resist the call of Barcelona in 2014. Similarly, Alex Song, and Alex Hleb. None of those players, however, could be said to have the talent of Alexis.
What then of Cesc Fabregas? Sure, he won some trophies but at the cost of his Arsenal legacy and a life as a player no longer loved by any set of fans. Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, and Lasana Diarra are another few that spring to mind, but it is a long list.
Similarly, Robin van Persie, who is perhaps the closest Alexis example. He left Arsenal when he finally hit his peak, enjoyed one good season with United and then faded to nothing.
Alexis might not even get that…