Alexis Sanchez’s tumultuous tumultuous time in England is coming to an end. The Chilean winger was one of the most exciting players in the Premier League during his prime. Sadly, the last few seasons have not gone his way and now Sanchez is finally on the move to Inter Milan in Serie A. His absence from the league may not be felt like it would have been a few years ago, but it is no less disappointing to see Sanchez depart on these terms.
Arsenal supporters were filled with jubilation when Arsenal announced the signing of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in 2014. He was flush with talent on the ball, but was mired down the pecking order behind the likes of Messi and Barcelona’s then newest signing, Neymar. He needed a new challenge to thrive and he got one with Arsenal. The prospect of the Chilean linking up with Mesut Ozil, who arrived only a year earlier from Real Madrid, was electrifying. The move was supposed to represent a new era for Arsenal where the Gunners would finally get out from the doldrums.
Sanchez went on to make 166 appearances notching 80 goals and 45 assists. He was an integral part of two FA Cup titles as well as a Community Shield trophy. Arsenal made a push for the Premier League title in 2016, when heavyweight clubs were in transition, but lost out to Leicester City. The Chilean created and converted some beautiful goals during his time at Arsenal and was able to garner wins single-handedly. Unfortunately his incredible run of form fostered the growing sentiment that he had outgrown Arsenal as Arsene Wenger’s side continued to lose steam in the Premier League.
The turning point often associated with Alexis Sanchez’s desire to move on from Arsenal came after the embarrassing 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich. The Champions League defeat was a culmination of years of trying to compete with the best. In 2012, former chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, was infamously quoted for saying that Arsenal would compete with the likes of Bayern Munich in the future. At the time of the loss, Sanchez was apparently in discussion with Arsenal over a new contract. Following the embarrassing defeat, however, Sanchez reportedly began to doubt Arsene Wenger and the ability of the club to challenge for trophies.
Sanchez never signed a new contract. Offers came in over the summer of 2017 most notably from Manchester City, who offered a reported fee of £60 million. Arsenal ultimately declined the offer and held on to Sanchez for the remainder of 2017. There were cracks developing in his game that not only fans but also journalists began to notice. His tireless demeanor of chasing down after the ball began to wane. He would visibly display his frustration toward teammates on the pitch. He scored seven times in his last nineteen appearances for Arsenal, which was five goals less than in his first nineteen appearances the season before. Sanchez also only managed three assists over that same time a feat he accomplished in only six matches in the 2016/17 season.
A reasonable explanation for this dip in form was that his heart and head were no longer in Arsenal. After his Manchester City move failed to materialize, he lost the passion he once had with the Gunners. He knew he would eventually be gone whether during the winter transfer window or for free the next summer.
His dream move finally came in January, but not with the Manchester club he had originally anticipated. Arsenal completed a swap deal with Jose Mourinho and Manchester United for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Sanchez finally had the opportunity to revitalize his career with United, but though the situation was provided, circumstances as well as age and a lack of confidence stymied any further success.
Sanchez failed to make an impact during the remainder of the season. So much so that he was no longer a Premier League star, but rather found himself falling down out of the first team in favor of younger United players. During the 2018/19 season, Alexis only started on nine occasions in the Premier League and was injured for thirteen matches. He only scored one goal.
Manchester United’s permanent hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer towards the end of last season all but sealed Alexis’s fate. Solskjaer’s hiring represented a new strategy for the club one that did not involve over-paid underperforming players. Instead, the emphasis was placed on providing young talent with the opportunity. Sanchez’s confidence and fight, however, were nowhere to be seen including his flair, pace, and energy. He essentially became a shell of his former self. Honestly, Sanchez deserved better.For one reason or another, he could not live up to the pressure.
Sanchez’s high wages also played a pivotal role in the current situation. When he joined Manchester United, he reportedly signed a £500,000 per week contract making him one of the highest paid players in the Premier League. It is difficult for any players to live up to that contract, but when he does not come close to justifying that high wage it can cause a rift within the squad. Other members of the squad may feel confused as to why they are not getting paid more when they are performing at a higher level than Sanchez. Manchester United and Solskjaer wanted to avoided this inevitable conflict by letting him go even if it required some compensation on their part.
Alexis Sanchez now finds himself on the verge of a move to Inter Milan. The now 30 year-old winger is considered past his prime. The injuries have racked up, but he still can play an integral part as he returns to the league where he first became noticed by Barcelona. He will join up with his former teammate, Romelu Lukaku, as they look to bring the title challenge to Juventus. Antonio Conte will have the unenviable task of trying to properly incorporate Sanchez into the team. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo, and this is not meant to compare Sanchez’s talents to the Portuguese star, Sanchez lost his pace and on ball movement with age, but Ronaldo adjusted to become a central striker taking advantage of his prolific goal scoring ability. Sanchez does not seem to have that goal scoring prowess anymore, which is most likely down to confidence more than anything else.
Alexis Sanchez is a talented player who dazzled and amazed Udinese, Barcelona, and Arsenal fans for years. Sadly due to his unceremonious departure from Arsenal and his disappointing spell at Manchester United, his reputation in the Premier League has taken a significant hit. The love from Arsenal supporters is no more and Manchester United supporters saw an inferior version of Sanchez. Now, he has a chance to turnaround his career and recast himself as a different player in Italy.