We are fast approaching the resolution of Arsenal’s main problem: deciding the future of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez beyond this season.
Stories of either spectrum have been heard in the past year – from both wanting to stay if offered bigger salaries to both wanting to leave no matter what. In fact, we are completely in the dark about the players’ motives. Judging by their performances this season, you would rather believe Ozil wants to stay and Sanchez wants to leave – but that would be a stretch to say the least.
The situation is intricate. Ozil and Sanchez are on the receiving end of a long-standing war between Wenger and the board and the supporters. The Gunners have often been criticized for demonstrating a lack of ambition in their transfer dealings and for their lack of willingness to lose money when it comes to star players. The stories are just too painful for the ordinary Arsenal supporter to tell again.
With Wenger’s contract controversially extended by two-years this summer, the club acted upon these criticisms. The club appointed a number of new faces in the coaching and administrative structures and opted to risk losing money by not selling their contract rebels Ozil and Sanchez.
It’s not difficult to discern what their plans are. They want to appease the fans and send a message that what matters most are the results on the pitch. Whether this gamble will work or not remains to be seen. But by keeping Ozil and Sanchez at the risk of losing them for absolutely nothing contradicts how the club has been run since the erection of the Emirates. And that's something new.
It then comes as a surprise to see standout Arsenal supporters such as Ian Wright criticising the board and Wenger for doing exactly the opposite of what he has criticised them on before – for their lack of ambition on the pitch, for their failure to keep their star players and for their mental weakness.
Yes, Arsenal will lose money, and probably lose their star players too – by the look of it – but they have also shown that they have the backbone to run the club as a football body and not just a business body. I am in no way defending the men sipping champagne upstairs – they have created a mess big enough.
All I am saying is they seem to have succumbed to a position where whatever they do they will be on the receiving end of criticism. And Wenger has been absolutely right to complain about that all along.