Alexis Sanchez has been linked with a transfer to Chelsea, a move that seemed implausible just a few months ago but has rapidly become more feasible.
The first hints of a move away from Arsenal came before Christmas, and they were not particularly credible. Both the Chilean and his teammate Mesut Ozil were entering the last 18 months of their deals at the Emirates, and it appeared as though the usual rumour writers were just relieved to have a fresh angle for their stories.
Beyond that, it seemed as though the players’ agents were happy to let these stories grow to increase the pressure on the Arsenal board, who were reluctant to bend to the demands of their star players.
But since then, bit by bit, the chances of an Alexis move have grown and grown thanks to a rapidly worsening situation at Arsenal.
Firstly, and most importantly, his contract situation is no closer to being resolved. Another three months have passed, and a deal doesn’t seem to be any closer. We are now in the situation where Arsenal may well feel that they have to sell their star player this summer to ensure they recoup some value on him: in just over a year he can leave on a free.
Secondly Arsenal’s season collapsed in its traditional way post-Christmas. Bad results in the Premier League combined with Chelsea’s unstoppable surge has killed Arsene Wenger’s hopes of a Premier League title for another year. A thrashing by Bayern in the Champions League was humiliating, and the Gunners will still have to trudge through a meaningless second leg tomorrow night.
A fortunate draw against Sutton in the FA Cup has kept them alive in that competition, but even against non-league opposition they failed to impress particularly, grinding to a win which by its very nature carried no glory. They face Lincoln in the next round, all but guaranteeing them passage to the next round but again denying them the chance to prove anything.
Thirdly, as fan discontent has grown in its usual way, Arsene Wenger’s future has become more unclear than ever. While we can’t know whether the Frenchman’s presence is a positive or a negative for Sanchez at this point, the uncertainty and instability caused by the ever growing power vacuum at the Emirates is unlikely to make him feel like he’s at a club that is moving forward.
While all of these factors were promising for any Chelsea fan interested in getting the Chilean dynamo to Stamford Bridge, they were still ultimately gossip and rumour, without any concrete evidence.
All that changed on Saturday evening, when the Arsenal teamsheets for their game against Liverpool were released and it became clear that the winger was on the bench. He was not injured, just dropped, as his manager confirmed.
Suddenly, what began as a throwaway rumour had substance. The fact that the former Barcelona man seemed to sit grinning through the first half an Arsenal conceded twice and failed to create anything in his absence only added credence to the story.
The reality of the situation is that even if Arsenal’s relationship with their former golden boy is totally broken, they will do anything to prevent him moving to a league rival. Even if they are forced to sell this summer, they would rather get less money from a team in Italy or Spain than let their greatest asset move to Stamford Bridge.
But as the months tick by the balance of power moves ever more in Alexis; favour. In less than a year he can negotiate a pre-contract deal with whichever club he likes, and there would be nothing his current employers could do about it.
It would be a ruthless move from Alexis, but he has shown consistently that he is a born competitor and a winner. He would fit into Antonio Conte’s style and his formation perfectly, and is he really wants a Premier League medal, there’s no doubt it would be a smart move.