What Impact Does the Alexis Sánchez Transfer Have on the 3 Clubs Involved?
The prevailing saga of the January transfer window has finally come to a conclusion. With Alexis Sánchez being officially announced as a Manchester United player on Monday, his move away from Arsenal, which began in the summer, is complete. In the end, the final transaction was a straight swap with the Red Devils for out-of-favor midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It is a transaction that could have significant ramifications on the remainder of the current Premier League season, and the deal will definitely influence the future of the three clubs involved in the seasons to come.
Manchester City, who failed to secure Sánchez’s signature in the summer, have missed out on a world-class talent, but they will likely claim the league title anyway. Manchester United have gained an extraordinary player at a position of need, and Arsenal have seemingly salvaged an ugly situation by securing instant reinforcements instead of relying on a separate transfer to fill the void left by Sánchez.
Let’s take a look at the impact of Sanchez’s transfer on each of the aforementioned clubs.
For Manchester City, in the short term, everything will be fine. It is easy to put a failed transfer behind you when you are in the midst of a historic season and have a firm grasp on the league. However, losing out on a proven Premier League talent such as Sánchez, especially when he's now at your crosstown rival, is never a good thing.
The impact of this transfer to the blue half of Manchester won’t be seen on the pitch during their matches. With the side excelling in all competitions, and wingers Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling enjoying the best form of their careers, the positive results will keep on coming. However, if they do stumble, the likelihood that Manchester United could catch them has increased (even if it's still a longshot), and the competition City will face next season has likely increased, as well.
If Sánchez is the piece of the rebuilding puzzle that finally returns Manchester United to the form of the Ferguson era, then this failed transfer will have a significant impact on City’s future. While the financial demands of the transfer may not have been justifiable for the talent upgrade Sánchez would have brought to City’s squad, it may have been justifiable to keep him away from United.
Only time will tell if that’s the case. For now -- and most likely for the rest of the season -- the rose-colored glasses are firmly (and rightfully so) glued to the face of City supporters everywhere. However, if there’s trouble in paradise next season, they may look back on the Sánchez transfer as part of the reason why.
For Manchester United, the acquisition of Sánchez is a stroke of good fortune at an opportune time. Not only do they avoid seeing an elite player go to Manchester City, they gain a superstar at the position in which they need help.
Despite the summer arrival of Romelu Lukaku and the recent inspired play of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, United’s biggest need, as José Mourinho has said himself, is another attacking player. While the current options have done well, scoring 49 goals in 24 Premier League matches this season, they lack depth, with only an injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic behind Lukaku, Martial and Marcus Rashford.
With the ability to play in the middle of the pitch and out wide, Sánchez, when paired with Martial, could finally give José Mourinho two wide attacking options with speed, strength, and an eye for goal. This season, United have often been forced to play a combination of Juan Mata, Mkhitaryan, and Rashford on the right wing. While he's certainly capable of performing well, Rashford isn't naturally suited to that position, and both Mata and Mkhitaryan fit the mold of central creator better than winger.
Alexis Sanchez scores a wonder goal in El Classico for Barcelona against Real Madrid at Camp Nou #AFC #MUFC #AlexisSanchez #Sanchez #MCFC #Barca #RMA pic.twitter.com/eIEZFS3YKN
— Historic Goals ⚽️ (@HistoricGoals) January 15, 2018
In addition to his world class talent, as evidenced by goals such as the one above against Real Madrid, Sánchez also brings a couple additional benefits to Manchester United. First and foremost, he has proven production in the Premier League. Soccer history is riddled with players who moved to England and failed to make an impact after excelling in different European leagues. The English game is different, the demands it places on players is unique, and Sánchez, with his 44 goals and 17 assists in 87 Premier League matches, has proven he can meet those demands.
The other advantage that Sánchez arrives at Old Trafford with is his eligibility to play in the Champions League. Many high-profile January transfers arrive at their clubs cup tied, but due to Arsenal’s absence from the competition, that is not the case for Sánchez. His inclusion in the squad will be a major boost for Manchester United when they meet Sevilla in February.
In addition adding an excellent player, the actual deal itself, sending Mkhitaryan to Arsenal, was helpful to Manchester United. Mkhitaryan hasn’t featured for United since falling out with Mourinho early in the season, and being able to move his £140,000 a week wages off the books allowed the Red Devils to offer Sanchez the wages necessary to secure the deal. All in all, this is one of the best pieces of business Manchester United has conducted in recent memory.
Make no mistake about it -- the loss of Sánchez is a major blow to Arsenal, and no amount of 4-1 victories over bottom-of-the-table sides will change that. The departure of Sánchez will be felt when Arsenal are looking for moments of brilliance to push them past elite opposition, not when they are piling on goals in a blowout.
That said, the mistakes that lead to Sánchez’s departure all happened long before this January transfer window. Arsenal's handling of the situation as a whole can certainly be heavily criticized, as it lead to the ideal outcome of simply extending Sánchez's contract being completely off the table. However, once his departure became inevitable, Arsenal managed to do well for themselves.
Losing a key player in January is especially difficult for a club due to the short window they have to secure a viable replacement. By agreeing a swap deal for Mkhitaryan, Arsenal avoided that issue completely. On the day Sánchez left, his replacement arrived, and as of Tuesday morning, Mkhitaryan is already in training. That advantage is critical for an Arsenal side that currently sits five points outside of a Champions League spot and can’t afford to lose more ground.
Then there’s the player himself, who, despite what his last couple months at Manchester United would lead you to believe, is actually an incredible talent. Just two years ago, he was highly sought after by multiple top clubs. While he is no Sánchez, he is certainly a valuable asset, and he should slot right into Arsenal’s starting lineup. The upside to this transfer lies in Arsene Wenger’s ability to return Mkhitaryan to the form that saw him provide 15 assists and score 11 goals for Dortmund in 2015. If he Wenger can reverse the negative impact that Mourinho had, Mkhitaryan should shine for Arsenal.
In addition to Mkhitaryan’s ability, there is the added bonus of his previous experience playing with rumored new singing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The two played together at Dortmund, which should help ease the transition for both players into a new club while accelerating Arsenal's chemistry on the pitch. Reassembling one of the most dangerous partnerships in all of Europe from the 2015 season is an excellent consolation prize for Arsenal, and one that should ease supporters' concerns for the time being.
Ultimately, after digging a hole for themselves, Arsenal made the best of a bad situation. Selling a superstar player to a rival club in the same league is a pain Arsenal supporters know all too well. However, this time they received a quality player in return. It’s difficult to call this a “win” for Arsenal, but once you consider that the alternative was Sánchez walking away for free this summer, that’s exactly what this is for the Gunners.