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Alexis Sanchez was the second worst player in the league for losing the ball last season

By Josif

We have undoubtedly witnessed a lot of big players leaving Arsenal.

If we solely focus on the Wenger-era, we have seen

  • Nicolas Anelka sulking his move away from Arsenal to Real Madrid in 1999 where he was a huge failure,
  • Both Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars leaving Arsenal for Camp Nou in 2000 only to see both of them failing to meet expectations in Barcelona due to various reasons,
  • Patrick Vieira leaving Arsenal for Juventus in 2005,
  • Ashley Cole’s greed almost forcing him into a car accident before he joined Chelsea in 2006,
  • Mathieu Flamini leaving for Milan in 2008 on a free transfer because of the wage at the Italian club where he was virtually a bystander,
  • Alex Hleb joining Barcelona in the same transfer window,
  • Emmanuel Adebayor joining Man City in 2009 before acting disrespectfully to both Arsenal players and fans,
  • Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leaving us for Barcelona and Man City respectively in 2011 in the same transfer window,
  • Robin van Persie joining Man United in 2012 but not before criticizing the direction of the club…

We thought the days when players we want to keep would leave Arsenal were over after September 2013 when Mesut Özil signed for Arsenal for the club record transfer fee. Indeed, Bacary Sagna did leave Arsenal for Manchester City after his contract expired in 2014 but the emergence of Hector Bellerin in 2014-15 made us all forget about him.

However, the on-going saga about Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil implies a different conclusion. There is a good reason why I focus on Alexis in this piece which doesn’t mean Özil shouldn’t get a piece as well. The thing is, Özil’s situation hasn’t produced anywhere near as many controversies as the Alexis one has.

The last season saw Arsenal trying a new tactical approach. No, I am not talking about our switch to 3-4-2-1 in the last fifth of the season.

Whilst we were still using 4-2-3-1 formation, it wasn’t the same tactics we used in the previous years. Instead of having Olivier Giroud as our target man, we were playing with Alexis as our main striker. Bar the opening game against Liverpool when we were playing without half of our team due to prolonged rest after EURO 2016, it worked perfectly well until…well, Arsene Wenger’s 67th birthday.

That was the last day we had spent as the league leaders. Alexis was scoring goals and creating them, we were winning matches and we looked pretty much invincible. We were second only to Liverpool in terms of goals scored.

True, the level of our game dropped a bit after Santi Cazorla’s injury against Ludogorets but we were still capable of keeping the pace with Chelsea until two back-to-back referee-inflicted defeats to Everton and Man City respectively. After those two defeats, it looked like we didn’t have any confidence at all.

It also looked like Alexis wasn’t too happy with how things were going as his (annoying) disappointment with the manager’s decision to substitute him was clearly visible. He was also seen criticizing his team-mates, even after victories (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said Alexis had criticized him for a missed opportunity in our victory over Crystal Palace that denied Alexis an assist).
Reports about his reluctance to sign a new contract with Arsenal were all over internet. Every reaction of Alexis was filmed with an interpretation to follow the narrative: “Alexis is playing for himself, not for Arsenal. He is against Wenger and he wants to leave the club because the club doesn’t have the same ambitions as Alexis does.”
Given that Arsenal Football Club have arguably the weirdest fan-base in the world, two blocks have immediately dug up trenches and started the most bizarre war I have ever witnessed. In WOB-corner, Alexis was pictured as a Spartacus who will release Arsenal from the Wenger slavery. In AKB-corner, Alexis was pictured as a Trojan horse, a guy who gives less than he takes from Arsenal. Unfortunately, even Untold Arsenal gave its contribution with a couple of articles accepting the imposed narrative that there is a war and that the only choice is: Alexis or Arsene.

Things looked to be coming to the happy ending after our excellent run-in and FA Cup glory. Alexis played a huge role in winning the cup with goals in both Wembley matches and Arsene became the most decorated FA Cup manager EVER.  WOBs were probably eating themselves alive reading Alexis’ positive comments on the manager and AKBs were no longer mentioning how many times Alexis lost the ball against Watford.

Sadly, this was short-lived because “Victoria Concordia Crescit” has become an empty phrase more than an Arsenal FC motto. As soon as buzzing from the FA Cup Final victory ended, Alexis was thrown in the ring one more time.

It’s interesting that Alexis has been criticized for not being the team player (because you obviously can beat Messi’s Argentina twice in Copa America Final and become top player of the competition or create ten goals or more for your club team-mates as a non-team player). But let’s do an Untold Arsenal thing and assess all the facts and, especially, the whole context of it.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the usual criticism of Alexis that says Alexis loses the ball too often.

According to Whoscored.com, Alexis got dispossessed 3.4 times per game. That makes him the joint second worst in the league with…Diego Costa of Chelsea with Wilfried Zaha losing the ball 3.7 times per game.

When it comes unsuccessful touches, Alexis is joint eighth worst in the league with…Sergio Aguero, Marko Arnautović and Salomon Rondon as all four players averaged 2.5 unsuccessful touches per game. The leaders in this category were, again, Wilfried Zaha and Diego Costa.

Mind you, I included only players who made at least 19 league appearances last season to get the most realistic sample.

Then I paid a visit to Whoscored’s stats for La Liga and got some interesting results using the same appearance criteria.

The players who got dispossessed more than any other were beautifully Arsenal-named Gabriel Pires from Leganes and Mehdi Garcela-Gonzalez from Granada, both with 2.9 per game. Third-placed were some guy named Neymar and Malaga’s Juanpi with 2.8 per game. Fifth-placed was another Barcelona player. I think his name is Messi or something like that.

When it comes to players with unsuccessful touches, Neymar is joint third with Sergi Enrich from Eibar with 2.6 unsuccessful touches per game each.

What these stats reveal about the whole picture?

Well, nothing. It only proves that worst offenders in this statistical category are either wingers or strikers who use and receive the ball in the final third where the number of the opponents’ players is the biggest. Also, wingers and strikers usually try to dribble past their opponents. It’s no wonder that, when it comes to successful dribbles per game, Zaha is second (4.1) and Alexis is fifth (2.9) in the league.

If negative statistics about possession are a valid criteria whether a player should be kept or not, should Barcelona sell Neymar despite the fact he was also the highest rated player in Primera according to Whoscored (8.52)? Should Arsenal sell Alexis despite the fact he was also the second highest rated player in Premier League according to Whoscored and Squawka’s Performance Score (behind Hazard)?

Second, let’s take a look how dangerous for our goal Alexis’ mistakes actually were. According to Squawka, his defensive errors led to three attempts on goal, zero goals conceded.

So, why it looks like positive Arsenal fans want to make Alexis look like an Arsenal problem instead of seeing him as our biggest asset?

If they think WOBs have made a lot of damage to Arsenal by writing negative articles on our players and the manager, why do positive Arsenal fans do the same about Alexis?

Why do people who usually use brains and facts to get conclusion now use incomplete facts torn out of context to get their conclusion on Alexis?

In my job, if I make an administrative ruling assessing only a single piece of evidence in the case while completely ignoring every other evidence per se and in the context with other items of evidence, any decent lawyer would be able to write a successful appeal because I didn’t do my job properly.

Conclusion: the Alexis Sánchez case should have never been existed at the first place regardless of his decision to renew the contract with Arsenal. There should have never been a dilemma imposed to Gooners – Arsene or Alexis – because Arsenal need both of them to win things. As far as I am concerned, they are both members of the Arsenal Football Club crew and they both deserve our support.

Mind you, when Patrick Vieira was making awful comments about the Arsenal team and was openly flirting with a move to Manchester United (of all places!), Arsene Wenger managed to persuade him to stay at the club and to sign a new contract. It was summer 2001, just before Wenger’s Second Double Season.

10 comments to Alexis Sanchez was the second worst player in the league for losing the ball last season

  • Will you be doing an article on the Video Assistant Referees pilot in the Confederation Cup?
    As I listened to Lee Dixon last night and agreed that Football is indeed embarrassing at it’s inept use of VAR, when all other sports seem to be competent in the use of their versions, it struck me that it’s almost as if FIFA want VAR to fail, so they can say “Yes we tried it…no it didn’t work”. Almost…

  • Dammy

    Well said.

    It is strange that it never gets said that dispossession is directly linked to dribbling. No sentence on a player who is dispossessed a lot should be complete without a mention on whether or not he dribbles a lot.
    Spuds don’t dribble. They have some of the highest clearance/long ball ratings. Should that be applauded? It isn’t rugby and playing the ball on the grass is a tenet of the game (except where risky)

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Alexis had successfully played in multiple positions of: LW, CF & RW in the front line for Arsenal last season with the left wing position been his most allotted position to play from. He scored 24 Premier League goals for Arsenal last season and added 6 more in the other competitions and assisted 10 to end his Arsenal campaign last season with a total of 31 goals scored that won him the Arsenal golden boot award.

    With this his envious high goals scoring tally for Arsenal last season, Alexis stock has risen to give him the boldness to demand for higher pay at Arsenal. We don’t know how much he has demanded to be paid and how much have Arsenal offered him to increase his pay as this is not made public but only known through the unreliable rumour mill.

    I think Arsenal don’t want to sell Sanchez this summer but keep him unless as a last result they have to sell him to prevent losing him next summer for free. And other top clubs domestically and externally know this as the weakness Arsenal are contending with this summer and they are exploiting it. Man City are heavily rumoured linked to want Alexis this summer and could be ready to pay Arsenal £50-60m if Arsenal wouldn’t mind to part with Alexis now.

    Ozil’s case hss been in the background because I think his stock is not a hot cake that can sell as that of Alexis’ cake that’s hot. Because of Ozil’s somewhat lack of stellar performance for Arsenal in 4 consecutive seasons. Save when he registered PL 19 assists in the 2015-16 season for Arsenal. I think he will eventually be contented with what wage increase Arsenal have offered him and sign da thing in the long run as we’ve not heard of any top club bidding to hire his services this summer. And I think Le Prof knows this.

    Our headaches know is Alexis who is trying to force his way out of Arsenal this summer. From our own part as Gooners, we can only beg him to extend his stay with us. But what can our begging him to extend his stay with us achieve since this is a career financial matter? Well, Le Prof and the Arsenal board have a problematic Alexis job on their hands to do. And they have to do the job successfully by making him to extend his stay with us by all possible means. The question of losing him for free next summer is not acceptable and should not be on the cards but keeping him far beyond next season is what will be most welcomed.

    Let’s hope the deal by Arsenal to sign #LACALEMA will come through this summer to complement the unrelenting efforts of: Alexis, Ozil, Giroud & Walcott in the Arsenal forward next season who I want Arsenal not to sell any of them this summer but keep them all.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Jaroda2, that is what I have been thinking the last matches. It started in a perfect way and now suddenly it went wrong.
    If I can find the time I will be writing an article about it

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    calciomercato.it an Italian website is claiming Arsenal have signed the right winger Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City but no fee is mentioned. Courtesy google website. If true, (but it could be fake news) will Mahrez be an improvement on the last season’s 10 PL goals scorer, Theo’ Walcott who is the resident occupier of the right wing position in the Arsenal first team squad?

    Has the switching to a back three defense-line and 2 midfield attacking wingbacks play now make Walcott surplus to requirement at Arsenal since he doesn’t appear able to play as a wingback? And according to rumours if Mahrez is truly signed, will Le Prof still keep the Ox or sell him? More so, if he eventually signed Thomas Lermar from Monaco. But if he signs Mahrez, he won’t sign Lermar, would he after signing Lacazette? For, he has said at the end of last season that he will keep 90% of his current first team squad and revamp it with only 2 – 3 new additions this summer. Are the 2 – 3 additions Kolasinac, Lacazette and Mahrez?

  • Polo

    Well written Josif, thank you.

    My opinion is that if any player including Alexis want to leave then Arsenal should sell that person, no point of having an upset and unhappy player around the team.

    A gut feeling that Alexis will stay but probably have a buy out clause.

    Can’t wait for the Lacazette official announcement.

    I would love to see this lineup.

    Cech,
    Bellerin, Mustafi, Kos, Kolasinac
    Ramsay, Xhaka
    Perez, Ozil, Alexis
    Lacazette

    Rotation:
    Gabriel, Holding, Per, Monreal,
    Ox, Coq,
    Walcott, Wilshire, Iwobi
    Giroud

  • Damilare

    I actually think the AAA more than any other group criticized Alexis (and other Arsenal players).

  • OlegYch

    thank you Josif
    i was starting to believe Untold has strayed from its motto of supporting the players

  • Jammy J

    I thought the anti-Alexis article on this blog was very strange indeed. Why is it okay to post an article that is dedicate solely to criticising one of our players (one of our best players, at that), yet any comments that aren’t 100% positive about the club, are usually not even allowed to be posted or they are jumped all over, being demanded to show evidence to back-up what they are saying.

    It is odd, that a blog that prides itself on actually supporting the team, was so ready to castigate one of our best players, due to a complete non-issue.

  • Andy Mack

    The thing is, we won’t actually find out what Alexis (or pretty much any other player) really thinks about the club, until sometime after they’ve left it.
    Generally former players refer to their time with us very positively, but the drivel and hogwash in the media during their time with us sometimes suggests something different.

    Does Alexis want to leave or stay?
    Only he knows for sure (maybe his agent as well but he’ll ignore that in search for earning an extra dollar for himself…).