Arsenal, having slipped out of ‘top four’ last season, struggled to strengthen their squad during the transfer window. Although the Gunners boss Arsene Wenger brought in French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Olympic Lyon following his consistent high-scoring campaigns and secured a deal for former Schalke left-back Sead Kolasinac on a Bosman transfer, the contract situation of Chilean international Alexis Sanchez, as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, haunted them all summer.
Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool on deadline day whereas Sanchez, the other contract rebel, was retained despite heavy interest from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Arsenal attempted to bring in Monaco sensation Thomas Lemar but the player rejected the move and Wenger, as a result, kept hold of Sanchez despite less than 12 months remaining on his current deal.
Sanchez netted 30 times for the North London heavyweights last season across all competitions and losing him to a key rival would have been a significant blow for Arsenal. But the player is probably not going to extend his stay beyond this season and letting him leave for free next summer will be an even bigger disappointment. There were talks of a ‘Sterling plus cash’ deal being offered by Guardiola to bring Sanchez to City. Arsenal, however, must not reject a similar offer when the transfer window reopens in January.
The Gunners are in the Europa League, a competition that the big guns of Europe prefer to circumvent due to excessive pressure of consecutive games. Sanchez will be a massive influence if they wish to reclaim a ‘top four’ finish in order to stake their claim in the prestigious Champions League tournament. Winning the Europa League title will reward them with a Champions League place, but it’s a much bigger gamble than seeking a ‘top four’ return.
The Gunners do not have enough squad strength to focus on both the competitions and injuries have troubled them severely in recent years. Thus, it will be a tough ask for Wenger to let his prized asset leave in winter, particularly if they find their feet and build momentum, banking on Saturday’s 3-0 triumph over Bournemouth.
But, if the Gunners lack consistency and do not come up with enough optimism in the next three months, they should allow Sanchez to join Manchester City and demand Raheem Sterling in a swap deal. Sterling, the former Liverpool youngster, is no close to Sanchez’s stature, but without Champions League football, Wenger will find it hard to lure talents to the Emirates Stadium. Sterling will be 23 in December and has a bright future ahead despite his inconsistency since joining the Citizens a couple of years back.
City have plenty of attacking options available and Sterling’s place in the starting XI is not even secure due to stern competition from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and new signing Bernardo Silva. He, however, is an enormous talent and needs to play regularly in order to exhibit his quality. Sterling to Arsenal will be a win-win situation for both parties as the Gunners must start preparing for life without Alexis Sanchez.
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