ALEXIS SANCHEZ’S importance to Arsenal’s success has never been as clear as it was on Tuesday night.
Struggling to break through a stubborn Sunderland defence, he scored twice in the last 15 minutes to seal a 2-0 win over the Black Cats.
It keeps the Gunners in the hunt for a place in the top four, although their fate is no longer in their own hands.
Football Whispers ask the question, will Arsenal be able to keep Sanchez at the Emirates without Champions League football?
Wenger apparently only made the decision to start the Chilean a few hours before kick-off and with his 22nd and 23rd goals of the campaign, it paid off massively.
Almost ruled out with a knock, it was a risk, but one the Frenchman had to take.
“I felt he had something still left,” Wenger said. “But once he is on the pitch and has the ball he becomes the devil and forgets his pain.”
Although contracted until 2018, the former Barcelona player is contemplating his future at the club and finishing outside of the top four is obviously not in his plans, especially after what his original desire was when he joined in 2014.
“I know that with this team we can win many trophies in the coming years,” he said back in November 2014. “I am convinced. I hope to win everything here. That’s why I came.”
Arsenal lifted the FA Cup in 2015 and will have the chance to do that again when they take on Chelsea at the end of season showcase.
Yet, that shouldn’t be enough to satisfy a player with his ambitions, although Wenger doesn’t think Sanchez’s time at the Gunners should be seen as a waste.
“Nobody questions his desire and his quality, but it shows as well, if you look at Sanchez’s numbers, he has developed here as a player,” Wenger said after the Sunderland victory.
He has become a top-class player. He has not wasted his time here. Hopefully that will last for a long time.”
With 23 goals and 10 assists, this has been the former Udinese forward’s most productive season by far, eclipsing his last year at Barcelona when he scored 19 and contributed 10 assists.
He has become a more all-round player, adding centre-forward to his list of positions this term.
Missing out on Champions League football won’t be as crucial as many would have you believe, Chelsea have done extremely well this season under Antonio Conte and remained unaffected by their lack of European football.
However, that is the greater problem, Wenger will eventually leave, be it this summer or next.
Tottenham Hotspur are continuing to improve and the new stadium offers them space to grow.
Expectations surround Manchester City and Manchester United, both should improve under Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will likely grow stronger with every month the German coach is allowed to work his magic.
Competition for a place in the top four is going to become a lot tougher, not easier, and Arsenal are at the wrong part of the battle, sliding further down, rather than showing growth and progression.
When Arsenal legends start to admit that their top players need to leave the club to be successful, you know the tide has turned.
“Sanchez isn’t going to win things with Arsenal. If you want to stay in London and win things, then you go to Chelsea,” Ian Wright told The Sun podcast.
“You will win things at Chelsea. Real Madrid are starting to court Eden Hazard. When they start to court a player, they are eventually going to get him.”
Wenger is holding on to the hope they Arsenal can extend Sanchez’s contract, but even their own fans are beginning to lose faith.
Linked with moves to Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League champions Chelsea, it feels that once the fans have given up, his departure is inevitable.
Holding out for a bigger and better contract, is one of Europe’s top clubs can match those terms, plus provide a platform for the 28-year-old to win the trophies he craves and play in the Champions League, Arsenal chances of holding on look fairly grim.