You may challenge my statement, but the biggest and most long-awaited winter transfer window saga was completed tonight. Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal joined arch rival Manchester United on a four-and-a-half-year deal. He will wear the iconic #7 jersey once worn by David Beckham. The Chilean will now become the best-paid player in the Premier League. On the flip side, Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Man U moves to London to enable the swap. MkHit now claims he was dreaming to play for the Gunners, and I claim to be the reincarnation of... Never mind, I will park it here.
First, please enjoy the United’s masterpiece, where Alexis is playing “Glory, Glory Man Utd” on a piano. I’m neutral to the Red Devils, but their marketing department deserves a credit:
Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. Introducing #Alexis7…#GGMU #MUFC @Alexis_Sanchez pic.twitter.com/t9RIIx4mE4— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 22, 2018
Let’s have a quick look at who is now available in Manchester United attack, ranked by price tag and total points this season:
- Anthony Martial (8.0£) & 108 points
- Alexis Sanchez (11.7£) & 97 points
- Jesse Lingard (6.4£) & 91 points
- Paul Pogba (8.0£) & 88 points
- Juan Mata (6.8£) & 77 points
- Marcus Rashford (7.6£) & 73 points* (he is a forward in FPL, but with Romelu Lukaku being fit, there is hardly any space for the young Englishman playing at a wing or just behind Lakuku)
- Nemanja Matic (4.8£) & 60 points
- Marouane Fellaini (4.7£) & 34 points
- Ander Herrera (5.0£) & 28 points
The latter three aren’t direct competitors, playing mainly in the deep defensive midfield area. Fellaini (if fit) is sometimes used as a differential in attack, but this is a pure tactical switch. I didn’t mention Ashley Young, as he is now competing with Luke Shaw for the left wing-back position.
That leaves us with the six strong contenders for the remaining four midfield slots. Pogba is too essential these days to be benched, so we narrow it down to five for three. One of my good friends is a Red Devils’ fan for life and he shared with me the fanbase views of the latest announcement:
“We are all very excited, though obviously bit cautious. There are still strong memories of Angel di Maria wearing number 7 and tremendously cracking under the pressure and stellar expectations. There is a hope though, as our team is so better equipped, as to the Argentinian’s time with us. Alexis is an extremely versatile player, and this is probably his biggest value for the current Manchester United squad. All three of Martial, Lingard and Rashford are still possible stars-in-making, while Sanchez brings a ton of experience and a proven track record from his Barcelona and Arsenal times.”
“Mata, on the other hand, is in his footballing prime. He has scored three and assisted three so far this season, which is not the rate we expect from a creative number 10 playing for a Top 4 side with ambition to fight for the Premier League crown.”
“Lingard has been extremely flexible and effective this season, while Martial regained his form just lately. Rashford is in a bit of a limbo and he needs to get his form back and get it quickly if he has any plans for making the England World Cup squad.”
“ ‘Tis said, we all expect Alexis to make an immediate impact on our attacking returns, but it remains to be seen in which role. We struggle with the creativity in general, but with Martial’s form and Mata’s experience our biggest gap is on the right attacking wing. Mourinho may give him a go right away in the upcoming game against Yeovil Town, and we are all looking forward to seeing him in action!”
So do we Andrey, so do we.
In my view, Alexis’s arrival threatens Mata and Lingard most. Martial isn’t much of use anywhere except his beloved left-wing. At Arsenal, Sanchez played mostly on the left, but had in fact the freedom to operate across the whole pitch. He had a short spell in the lone striker role, but there’s no way he will be preferred to the Big Rom. Mourinho likes to tinker with his team, adapting its style to each and every opponent, so there will always be space for the hard-working Alexis.
My verdict is the supporting position right behind Romelu Lukaku and ahead of Pogba. My second guess is right wing. In essence, his position shouldn’t really matter, as I expect him to be a revelation in the 2nd half of the season. I’m most probably buying him as soon as possible, and I recommend that you to follow me unless we see some hex from Mourinho in the upcoming Cup game.
I will be less poetic and effusive about the Armenian captain transfer, starting with the plain Arsenal presentation of their new signing:
Love that, @HenrikhMkh - we're delighted to have you here pic.twitter.com/PDABMfhsNx— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 22, 2018
What a contrast to United’s video, right? In all honesty, I can hardly believe that Mkhitaryan dreamed in childhood to play for the Gunners, so I remain skeptical of his real incentives. It looks like an escape to me.
Mkhitaryan started the season in world-class fashion, assisting five goals in the United’s first three games. He scored once in GW-5 against Everton, in what was his last productive week at Old Trafford. His subsequent performances went from bad to worse, resulting in his being axed from the starting eleven in GW-12. He has started only once since then (festive-congested GW-21). His downfall coincided with Pogba’s injury in a Champions League game. Was he so dependent? Why didn’t he step up to the starring role?
He will now cost you mere 7.6£ in FPL with 57 points to his name this season. In my view, there are better options in this price-bracket (e.g. Son, Lingard, Richarlison, Pogba and Shaqiri) who are all available and motivated.
Mkhitaryan will be cup-tied for the Arsenal’s upcoming replay against their London rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup, increasing his chances to feature in league matches. Henrikh is a great and (per Wenger) “complete” player, once “his head is calm and focused”. He was lost in Mourinho’s mind games and unfortunately has never risen to his true potential as a Red Devil.
At Arsenal he has a partnership to build with fellow German-speaker Ozil, who is of a very similar profile as the Armenian. In Alexandre Lacazette he should find a target for his assists. Arsene Wenger now has a player whom he has long admired, but he has a huge task to rebuild confidence and style of an undoubtedly talented footballer.
It remains to be seen if Borussia Dortmund ace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will finalize his rumored transfer to Arsenal. If the stars align, PEA would re-unite with his 2015/2016 Dortmunder assist master (Mkhitaryan), who earned the Bundesliga Player of the Season award with 15 assists to his name.
Let me stop in here, ladies and gentlemen, as I’m dying to know your thoughts on this swap.
Is Alexis Sanchez now in a position to reignite his former meteoric form, making him again a fantasy must-have? Will Mkhitaryan rediscover his early-season composure? Or will he become yet another Mesut Ozil? Tell us your thoughts in the chat below, and thank you for reading!