Alexis Sanchez was a player who rarely got injured. Then he encountered Jose Mourinho and his body started to fall apart. That’s a nice story, and there could well be truth to it given how emotions play a part in physical health, but, mostly, Alexis’s issues were all too easy to predict.
If you’re an Arsenal fan who delights in schadenfreude then Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United must taste very sweet indeed.
Of course, schadenfreude requires misfortune to delight in and how much of that there is when Alexis landed a contract worth £600k-per-week, guaranteed for four-and-a-half years, is debatable.
But watching him struggle gave us a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Of course, he’s no longer there, shipped out on loan to Italy like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, another player ruined by the ‘Special One’.
Alexis missed more games for United through injury in his first year at the club than he did when he was an Arsenal player, finishing his 18-month spell there with just five goals and nine assists in 45 games. A far cry from the 80 goals and 45 assists he got with Arsenal in 166 appearances. Extrapolating out, he was on course to score 13 goals and assist 33 if he played 166 games for United. I know it doesn’t work that way, but it gives you a good sense of his decline after leaving London.
There is 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.
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 was the best he’s ever had as a professional. The following 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.
Arsenal shipped out a manbaby. That is a good thing.
The dog botherer is an excellent player on his day, but it’s not radical to suggest that a player whose game relies so much on pace and power has had his and he’s on the inevitable post-30 slide.
Given his age, form, and wages, United are unlikely to be able to move Alexis on permanently anytime soon. They will hope to see some of his Arsenal form at Inter to drive up his price before he departs and they might get glimpses. But it will never be more than that.
He had his chance to establish himself as a Premier League great after his 16/17 season, to build a legacy at Arsenal but he wasted it as he chased after the money.
Perhaps, had he been allowed to leave for City in the summer before his United move things would have worked out differently. In fact, you could probably safely assume they would have.
Jose Mourinho’s desire to get one over on City has cost United a f**k-ton of money, but, perhaps more importantly than that, it has cost Alexis the chance of ever being more than a Premier League footnote.
This article was first written and published on 4 March 2019 and has been updated ahead of Arsenal’s first match against Manchester United since Alexis went to Inter Milan.