It may be that Arsene Wenger simply wants talk of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil being sold in January off the agenda – and we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes – but there is good sense behind the Arsenal manager’s latest insistence that they are staying put.
Regardless of the fact that the Gunners could recoup money and dictate their next club by selling them in the winter transfer window, it would still leave Wenger needing to spend that money to replace them immediately and that would be very difficult. That is the big issue.
Neither of Arsenal’s star duo have been anywhere near their best so far this season but it is now down to them to knuckle down. It’s not only best for the club; it will also give them the best set of options for a move next summer.
Sanchez, who scored 30 goals for the club last season, and Ozil, who has made more assists than any other player in the Premier League since his arrival in 2013, should be aiming to be man of the match every time they go out and play. They have set those high standards for themselves and when they don’t reach them they have to expect criticism.
Their form hasn’t done them any favours if they are looking to impress potential suitors and neither has their attitude, especially when you bear in mind the huge wages that they will expect and that, at 28 and 29 respectively, their best years may be behind them. But by redoubling their efforts and rediscovering their top level they can remind clubs how good they are and put themselves on everyone’s shopping list.
There is also a question of professionalism. If you’re a footballer you want to be winning – full stop. There’s nothing like it for generating a lift. Manchester United played poorly for much of last season but won two trophies and now they’re back in the Champions League and Manchester City’s closest rivals domestically. Sanchez and Ozil should want to win cups and qualify for the Champions League.
Lately, there have been signs of improvement from the pair. The bad body language of previous months – there is nobody else quite like them in that respect – has looked better and they were full of intensity and running in the win over Tottenham earlier this month. A cynic might think it was because a transfer window was approaching.
Things are looking up for Arsenal too. They won the north London derby, overtook Spurs and went back into the top four at the weekend. The distraction of speculation about Wenger’s future has also dissipated.
This is the nitty gritty time now. There is lots of football to be played in the next month – top teams will play nine times – that can have a major impact on whether the Gunners have a successful season or not. For Sanchez and Ozil, it is also a spell that could significantly impress or deter potential future employers.