Well if ever there was a failed move between two top clubs it was that of Alexis Sanchez who, in chasing the megabucks, finds himself an unwanted man and about to be shipped to the barren wasteland known as Serie A.
A tenth month loan deal in which United have to shell out £6million during the loan period, you say? Couldn’t have happened to a nicer team. United didn’t give Alexis the freedom he enjoyed at The Arsenal, they just told him to slot in to their system and the result was what they got, which was a player who looked out of sorts on an astronomical amount of coinage.
Still, we can’t laugh too heartily, because we got Mkhitaryan the other way and whilst he’s at least played plenty of times for The Arsenal over the last year and a half, he’s been dismal more than successful. The Alexis situation would have been more hilarious had we got a fee for Alexis but at least we can have a chuckle at the situation. And chuckle at journos like Ollie Holt who, if I recall rightly, said something like this was the deal of the century or some sort of hyperbolic statement that has worked out far from the truth.
And the truth is that Alexis Sanchez was probably a waning force when he left us. Injuries, overplaying every single summer, plus a system and club that wouldn’t work with his ‘free form jazz’ style, has all led United to the situation they are in now. With just Martial, Rashford and Mason Greenwood as their attacking options. Heck, Martial and Rashford are good players and will see United do alright, but it’s hardly the deepest of squads and that should give comfort to Arsenal fans.
Potentially also pressure on Unai Emery too, because two of the three teams we would class as ‘rivals’ for the remaining two Champions League spots, appear to be weaker this season than last. United have sold and not bought, Chelski cannot buy, whereas we have strengthened. We have a better squad than last season and as a result we have to be looking at that fourth spot as a minimum requirement for this season. If Emery can’t get us in to the Champions League with the squad we have and the depleted teams around us then we have to wonder if it’ll ever happen under his watch.
Let me be clear on this though: I’m not saying I want Emery out. I’m happy to see how this season pans out and unlike some people who were calling for his head towards the end of last season I am not going to jump to the same conclusions. We need him to succeed because then we succeed as a club. That needs to start this weekend in the North London Derby.
He appears to be a positive influence on players like Reiss Nelson too, who’s been talking to the official site and talking up the managers approach to younger players like himself. This is positive to hear from my perspective because I think we do need to give some of these young players a shot at getting in to the team. Joe Willock has wrestled his way in to the starting XI and doesn’t look like letting go of a starting spot at the moment. Nelson may have missed out at the weekend but we tweaked our style a little against Liverpool and so there’s clearly no reason for him to be disheartened. If I was a betting man I’d say he’s probably good for at least 10 starts and probably 25 appearances in total this season and for a lad who’s just 19 that’s a pretty good trajectory.
He’s clearly a lad with confidence too, which is what you need, especially when you’re playing at the sharp end of a Premier League team. Confidence is what allows attacking players to beat the man, to get in to positions again and more than anything else, not to hide when things aren’t going your way. I hope Nelson’s small interview clips that I’ve seen are just the tip of the iceberg because as a young player he’s going to make mistakes and he can’t let that affect his overall disposition. It would be the end of him if he did.
He seems confident enough though so that’s positive. Whether he gets any game time that remains to be seen but as long as we have young players hungry enough to make the grade waiting in the wings for their chance, then we can always be positive about our chances this season.
That’s it from me today. Tick-tock goes the clock for the North London Derby. Those butterflies are already building inside me folks…