Despite Alexis Sanchez on the brink of turning out for his new team, Manchester United, Arsenal have still brought in quality with Henrikh Mkhitaryan
You might not have noticed – that is if you turned off all your electronic equipment for about one month – but Alexis Sanchez has joined Manchester United, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan going the opposite way to Arsenal.
It’s easily the biggest football transfer story of this January window – perhaps on a par with Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona – but now all the talking will be replaced by action, with what happens on the pitch being everything that matters.
On paper, in terms of the individual quality and charisma of the two players, Manchester United got the better deal. Or at least they got the better player: Sanchez is one of the most complete and versatile strikers in the world, with plenty of experience and ability, and will truly add something different to the United attack.
As an overall ‘deal’, though, perhaps Arsene Wenger has not done too badly. The Chilean wanted to leave, had no intention to renew his contract, and would have left in any case for free in June. And his presence in the changing room was starting to be heavy to manage, with his team mates suffering the constant rumours of their best player departing an apparently sinking ship. Not exactly a great feeling.
Mkhitaryan was deemed to be one of the classiest number tens in world football a couple of years back, when he put together 25 goals and nine assists in his final season at Shakhtar Donetsk in 2012/13, or when he managed 11 goals and 20 assists in the Bundesliga in 2015/16 in a Borussia Dortmund shirt, before heading to Old Trafford to join up with Jose Mourinho.
Enjoy the best behind-the-scenes footage from a memorable day for #MUFC…
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His Manchester United career never really took off, with a total of 13 goals and 11 assists in 63 games, but Arsenal have brought in a player motivated to play for the club, who could be integrated perfectly with a similar playmaker – Mesut Ozil – and who has everything to get back to his best in the right physical and psychological circumstances.
Alexis will cost United in excess of $500,000 a week in wages, Mkhitaryan much less to Arsenal. And if Wenger wanted roughly $25 million to let go of Alexis in this transfer window, he got a player whose worth is potentially much more than that in the Armenian.
It needs to be a new beginning for the Gunners, of course, who cannot stop now. The same problems remain – lack of personality on the pitch, lack of a holding midfielder and a couple defenders – but this could be a starting point to have some fresh faces playing for Wenger, hoping to see something different come next season.
Alexis has the potential to be a real powerhouse at United, helping Mourinho try and put pressure on Manchester City until the very end of this title race and have a better shot at the Champions League. Arsenal will miss him. But Mkhitaryan at this stage represents a deal that is just as convenient for the Gunners.