With 22 goals and 18 assists in 44 games, Alexis Sanchez has taken on the mantle of Arsenal’s MVP from Mesut Ozil this season.
It was the German international who made history last year with record assist numbers in the Premier League, guiding the Gunners to a respectable second placed finish behind surprise package Leicester City.
However, one season is a long time in football and both Ozil and Sanchez have yet to commit to new contract offers which have been on the table for several months. Negotiations are expected to resume over the summer but Goal understands that Alexis has already made his mind up on where he’ll be playing next season, with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City confident of signing the Chilean maestro amid interest from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
Sanchez has suffered a dip in form of late which has coincided with Arsenal’s abysmal away performances and an example of his struggles could be seen at Selhurst Park on Monday night. The 28-year-old only managed one shot on target despite having 65.22% of his touches in the final third and only completed 20 passes in the whole game. Arsene Wenger’s decision to play Danny Welbeck down the middle is somewhat bemusing considering Sanchez’s previous success there, yet there are no excuses for such a talented player to go missing when the team need him most.
Have these Arsenal players ever experienced such a situation in their careers? Most of them haven’t had to fight for their manager’s future before and that is evident in their performances over the past few months. The team is devoid of leadership and strong characters even more so when Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla aren't in the team, but it's clear that the problems run much deeper than needing a loud voice in the dressing room.
Arsenal conceded 17 chances to 28 percent possession against Palace. There is something systematically wrong with the team if they are allowing a relegation threatened side to have such freedom in the final third - and from the way Alexis reacted as each goal went in, it proved a reminder of his frustrations at how last season’s league runners up have gone from title challengers to a team now unlikely to secure a top four spot.
Alexis is one of the world’s best players when on form. He’s in the latter stages of his career and should be playing for a team in the Champions League with a squad capable of winning major trophies. The club will move on after he leaves just like they have done with the likes of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, but it is vital that Arsenal sign a replacement before the start of the season if he does go in the summer.
While they previously had to sell their best players for financial reasons, it is now a matter of ambition just like Van Persie intimated in his statement before he left for Manchester United.
"As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the Boss and Mr. Gazidis after the season," wrote the Dutchman.
"This was a meeting about the club’s future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.
"I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days.
"Out of my huge respect for Mr. Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward."
Marco Reus is a name who has been heavily linked and Wenger has tried to sign the German international in the past. At 19-years-old, Kylian Mbappe is arguably the most exciting young talent in European football but it’s more likely that Arsenal will look to sign someone experienced in the mould of Alexis. A plethora of names will be mentioned over the summer although the key question that remains is: will the Gunners be able to attract a world class player if they fail to secure Champions League football next season?
A decision will be announced on Arsene Wenger’s contract situation at the end of the season where the entire campaign will be assessed. There is indeed still the possibility of a top four finish and an opportunity for the Frenchman to become the most successful manager in FA Cup history. For Alexis and the majority of Arsenal fans that is no longer good enough.