Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke City continued the rhetoric that the North London side are devoid of leaders and are susceptible to cracking under intimidation.

In recent years, an away day at Stoke City has proven to be Arsenal’s kryptonite – a fixture against a physical side with a direct approach that has exposed the Gunners’ mental frailties under Arsene Wenger.

While the perceived lack of mental fortitude is an issue that the club must address, the inability to score against Stoke, despite Alexandre Lacazette’s goal being dubiously ruled offside, is a worry.

Odds at Casumo Casino place Arsenal well back in the favourites to win the Premier League title this season, but the Stoke defeat clarified one thing – the Gunners must hold onto Alexis Sanchez to stand any chance of being in the running.

The Chile international’s contract is in the final 12 months, and with just over a week of the current transfer window remaining, the London club’s resolve may be tested by suitors of the South American star.

While the chances of Sanchez penning a new deal at the Emirates Stadium soon are looking remote, keeping the former Barcelona man and running the risk of losing him on a free transfer next summer could well be worth it.

Against Stoke, Mesut Ozil again looked anonymous, with the Germany international guilty of fading into insignificance when the chips were down. With the playmaker also in the same boat as Sanchez with his expiring contract, it is clear to see which one of the attacking duo Arsenal should break the bank to keep.

The Chilean continues to be unavailable for the Gunners after a late return to pre-season, with his match fitness not at a level where he can feature as yet. However, Sanchez’s importance to the Arsenal team is almost as evident without him in the team as it is with him in it.

The 28-year-old scored 24 Premier League goals last season, is capable of playing anywhere along the forward line and brings world-class quality to the Gunners side. Moreover, Sanchez’s mere presence in the Arsenal team brings more urgency, belief and penetration to the starting XI, with the sublime attacker getting the best out of those around him also.

The potential for the South American to play alongside Lacazette is a mouth-watering proposition, and as such Wenger must do everything in his power to keep Sanchez in North London – even if it means the potential for losing one of the best players in the world for nothing at the end of the season.

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