Analysis of Manchester United’s and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez Deal
Both Manchester United and Arsenal confirmed last week that Chilean star Alexis Sanchez and the Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan will finally be switching clubs. Alexis Sanchez will now be playing for Jose Mourinho’s 2nd place Manchester United in an attempt to catch 1st place Manchester City before season’s end. Meanwhile Henrikh Mkhitaryan will now be playing for Arsenal as the club now seems to be heading in a downward trend and wait for a massive rebuild in the summer. So now the only question is who won the deal?
Let’s begin with the main asset of the deal: Alexis Sanchez. Alexis Sanchez had a great tenure at Arsenal. During his three and a half year stay at Arsenal Alexis was always the main man in front of the net. Now he joins Manchester United in an effort to bring more creativity and goals to the side then they previously had.
When analyzing Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United, it’s hard to notice anything negative. The first thing that jumps out is that Alexis is a Mourinho player by heart. Mourinho demands defensive and positional discipline and a good work rate from every player on the pitch. Sanchez offers exactly that plus more. He’s a strong versatile player that is excellent in the final third where Manchester United this season has become stale at times. He also has a powerful shot outside the box and dangerous on set pieces. And to top it all of is his superb work rate on the pitch, always seeming to have enough energy in every minute of the game.
Manchester United were not the only ones who kept their eye on Alexis. It had seemed for a while now that Sanchez was bound for an already strong Manchester City team. If Alexis had gone to City it would have been scary to imagine a line up of City’s with Alexis in it. How strong would City have been? We will never know now. This is a huge win for United to hijack the deal and prevent him from going to rival clubs.
The only question that Alexis brings is where does he fit into an already talented young front four?
Anthony Martial has made this question even more difficult with his recent form. He has been showing consistent flashes from his first year of Manchester United as of late and has kept Marcus Rashford out of the lineup due to his passionate and electric play on the left wing, Alexis Sanchez’s main position. Jesse Lingard also deserves some praise. Lingard has been on the best form of his career. He has gained the faith of his manager and has commanded the number ten role.
So only down to striker and right wing now. Romelu Lukaku has been inconsistent in his first year with United. The Belgian striker leads the team with eighteen goals this year but tends to disappear in many matches. Lukaku is an excellent finisher inside the box, but the lacks the skill to impact the game in other ways without the ball. Despite the criticism Lukaku has received this year, his manager has continuously shown faith in him and has played him in almost every game. So striker is off the table for Sanchez.
The right wing position has been the one of the most inconsistent positions for United this year. We’ve seen the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all play on the right side but all have lacked consistent production. This seems to be the most likely choice for Sanchez in the short term but this is not his best position. This debate will all come down to Martial’s and Lingard’s form for the rest of the season and Mourinho’s patience to pull the tigger. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.
Now for the other part of this deal: Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Mkhitaryan’s life at Manchester United was quite lackluster. When he first arrived to the club last summer, he did not get much playing time. Mourinho claimed that he was not ready and needed more time to adapt to the English style and physical play of the premier league. When he finally entered the lineup he showed flashes of this brilliant career at Borrusia Dortmund, but only flashes. As he entered his second season with United, fans expected more consistency from the Armenian international. He started of the season with great success as he assisted five times in the first five games in the season. It looked like this was the year for Mkhitaryan for thrive under Mourinho.
Shortly after his lightning start, his performances started to diminish. He showed very little enthusiasm on the pitch and his work rate was poor. Mourinho was not afraid to pull him out of the lineup and he did exactly that. Ever since then he was unable to reenter the lineup due to the confidence Mourinho has in both Martial and Lingard.
So can Mkhitaryan reclaim his Borrusia Dortmund days at Arsenal?
Miki was never a good fit under Jose Mourinho. Jose demands a lot out of his players and can restrict creativity and freedom which is exactly what Miki thrives from. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger offers a more free flowing style that will better suit Miki. Mkhitaryan has technically smooth ability that will please Wenger. He is also equally as strong with both feet and even though he hasn’t shown that he can adapt to the premiere league yet, he has shown flashes which should be promising for Arsenal. The only concern that Arsenal supporters should have is that right now they are betting on potential and are unsure of what side of Mkhitaryan they are going to get.
When reviewing this deal as a whole, it is easy to see that Manchester United won their part of the deal. They were able to get a player of Alexis Sanchez’s caliber on a swap with a player they were willing to get rid of in Mkhitaryan without even paying a transfer fee. The only reason why this deal fell through was due to Arsenal’s mismanagement and unstable culture at the club right now. If Sanchez was never going to sign a contact extension with them then Arsenal should have sold him in the summer in order to get better value for him. Instead they betted on themselves and paid the price of letting go of their best player without better value. Now of course their side of the deal is still indeterminate. It is still possible that Mkhitaryan can reclaim his past form in his Bundesliga days and serve Arsenal well. But these are all questions and nothing is concrete. So we’ll have to wait and see if Arsenal walks away from this deal happy for with even greater regret.