By Oma Akatugba (@omaakatugba)
There is no doubt about it; the impending exit of Alexis Sanchez is another advert of Arsenal’s dwindling fortunes. The Chilean, who arguably has been the club’s most potent player in the past few seasons, have made public his frustration with the obvious failure to land major silverware or in the least, put up a real fight for them.
In fact, at the tail end of last season, his repeated emotional agony, expressed through a bust of anger and a conflict with innocent gloves, the air and pretty much anything else in sight, became the major talking point around the club and initiated early talks of an exit.
Like most fans, he is disillusioned at how fast things have deteriorated and his inevitable exit will, in no way, help situation given his obvious importance to the club. But that is not whole story, not even half of it.
Through some deft negotiations and due diligence, Arsene Wenger has managed to make meaning out of the debacle by forcing the hand of Manchester United, the club Sanchez would be joining, to give up one of its own who is struggling to adjust to life under Jose Mourinho; Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The ability of Mikhi, whose colleagues and opponents unanimously voted the best player in Germany in his last season at Dortmund after notching 15 assists, needs no retelling. Despite the no-show he has endured this season and criticism that has rightly followed, it is important to situate his supposed struggle in a proper context.
It is only his second season at one of the biggest clubs in the world where even bigger stars have had moments of doubts and disappointment, and more importantly; he has shown that his feats at Dortmund were no fluke with a record-equaling five assists in his opening three games this EPL season, on the back of a debut that saw him emerge as the top assist provider in the EFL Cup and earn a spot in the Europa League squad of the season – following his great contribution to Manchester United’s victory in the 2016-17 campaign.
When you add this to another related development that Arsenal is set to secure the signature of want-away Dortmund striker, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Brazilian youngster Malcom from combined funds derived from the sale of Alexis and Theo Walcott, it becomes clearer that the situation at Arsenal can be viewed from two perspectives.
The first one being that the club is losing its stars again following seasons of disappointment; and the other being that the manager, through the signature of a new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat from Borrusia Dortmund (where he identified and recommended the signing of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang), is attempting to rid his team of a player who has stagnated for seasons and another who is clearly not happy to be there – in exchange for one of the world’s best strikers and another menacing attacking midfielder desperate to prove that he has some gas left.
This leaves the fans with two choices; to either cry about what is gone or to look on to what is coming and the improvement attached. Whichever one they settle for, one thing is clear and incontrovertible: Wenger has emerged out of what could have been a complete loss and chaos with some credit.
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