Why Arsenal should sell Alexis Sanchez for the collective good
Alexis Sanchez must be good at time management. How else could he fit his football hobby around his acting career? Ripping off his gloves in anger. Shrieking at his teammates. Hammily sinking to the ground. Giving death stares to any player who dares not automatically pass to him. Pouting when he is substituted. Welcome to the Alexis show.
It sometimes seems that the talented Chilean thinks he is playing not for Arsenal FC, but Alexis FC. In football, there is a thin line between self-confidence and self-centredness. Great as he can be, Sanchez all too often stalks over that line.
In the season before he arrived, the Gunners often played with sublime slickness, and team spirit was the best it had been for years. Both these qualities showed when Jack Wilshere scored his much celebrated goal against Norwich in October 2013, and when Aaron Ramsey converted Olivier Giroud’s flick to land the 2014 FA Cup.
Then, the ego landed. Having left Barcelona after tiring of playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi, Alexis made it clear from the moment he arrived at the Emirates that he was more interested in receiving the ball than passing it, and that he would intimidate any team-mate who overlooked him.
The team’s slick moves began to be disrupted, and while the new guy sometimes worked wonders with the ball, he was also prone to surrendering possession, leaving the Gunners vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Last season, as the team struggled through a horrid spell, his theatrics became toxic. Nowhere was this more evident than his tantrum when he was substituted in the 79th minute at Swansea. He dropped his head and sulked his way to the touchline, petulantly kicked his glove into the air, and then sat at the side of the dugout, a symbolic distance from his teammates. But the Alexis show wasn’t over. The champion focus-puller draped a coat over his head and face, grabbing yet more attention.
These histrionics were all the more selfish because the man replacing him, the popular Danny Welbeck, was emotionally returning after nearly a year out with injury. It should have been his moment.
The last Gunners player to scowl and scream at his comrades if they didn't make him the epicentre of their every move was Thierry Henry. The Frenchman later admitted that this intimidating habit hindered his younger colleagues’ development.
The Swansea sulk followed similarly angry gestures from Sanchez during matches against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Bournemouth. Was his petulance a symptom of the Gunners’ shattered confidence or a cause of it?
A case can be made either way, but while Ian Holloway’s description of Alexis as a “selfish pig” might be a tad harsh, the Chilean forward is, in my opinion, the epitome of a self-centred footballer.