One year ago today, Arsenal and Manchester United performed an unlikely swap deal that saw Alexis Sanchez leave for Manchester United and Henrikh Mkhitaryan head the other way.
Sometimes it’s hard to be an Arsenal fan. Who am I trying to kid, most of the time it’s f**king awful, but some times are worse than others.
A few years back, if you’d told me that Arsenal would sell their best player to Manchester United while they were managed by Jose Mourinho, I’d have probably slapped you across the face with a wet fish. But things change in football, some faster than others.
At the time, most assumed United had got the better deal but while Mkhitaryan hasn’t exactly set north London alight he has, at least, offered something of value to his new team unlike Alexis who threw himself into a huff when he wasn’t allowed to move to Manchester City and hasn’t been able to get back on track since.
So far, Emile Smith Rowe has more senior goals that Alexis has managed in the last 11 months and while we can expect his fortunes to improve now that Jose Mourinho has gone, it’s highly unlikely he will ever come close to replicating his best Arsenal form.
Speaking a few months after Alexis departed, Raphael Honigstein revealed that the Arsenal dressing room didn’t like Alexis Sanchez very much and they were furious with his pretence that he was the only one working hard when stats showed he was doing the least.
“It’s become a bit of a joke, I think, to laugh at Arsenal because they made noises saying ‘finally we got rid of Alexis Sanchez’ and then look at what’s happened to them but I think it’s been under-reported just how badly the whole Arsenal dressing room hated Alexis Sanchez,” Honigstein said on the Totally Football podcast.
“They really felt that he was just playing up to camera doing all these things like ‘Oh I’m trying but no-one else is! What am I doing here?!’
“And then, quite tellingly, Wenger, he talked about this last year if you go back.
“They put up stats inside the dressing room after every game showing the amount of kilometres run, the passing and Sanchez would regularly come out with the lowest mileage by a big distance and the players would just go absolutely bananas at him playing to the camera and making all these moves like ‘Oh, they’re just not worthy of me! What am I doing here?!’
“So they really wanted to get rid of him.
“Whether they have improved as a team is a different story but I think it is a happier dressing room no doubt.”
Mkhitaryan has certainly fitted in behind the scenes a lot better than the Chilean ever did but his performances have been inconsistent despite seemingly being a key player for Unai Emery since his arrival in the summer. Injury has sidelined him since the Spurs game in December, but he is expected back in training this week.
Things at Arsenal got so toxic around this Alexis saga that by bringing in the Armenian last January Arsene Wenger, aided by Sven Mislintat, managed to fashion a Gucci scarf from the shit sandwich he was left holding when the summer transfer window shut.
Arsenal were never going to get the money to buy a Mkhitaryan on the open market no matter who they sold Alexis to. Given that the Chilean was less than two weeks away from being worth nothing, I’d say you can class this as a result.
It certainly is in the world of Arsenal, that’s for sure, if not Manchester United.