By Tony Attwood
I can’t think when the last time was that I quoted the Daily Mirror – certainly not quoting the Daily Mirror for doing something innovative and interesting which the rest of the media had not done.
But they have done it. Up to a point.
The article in question was by John Cross who is their chief football writer, and also a Talk Sprout man. He is very, very critical of Arsenal and Mr Wenger on many occasions, although can suddenly come up with something a bit different.
Of course in part this might be because of the headline writer whose brief it is to make sure the article gets readership, irrespective of what is in the article, but even so…. He doesn’t always come across as pro-Wenger in any way. But then he also rarely comes across as very original; and that’s not really his fault. There are a lot of anti-Wengerians about, and few of them have ever bothered to connect up all the issues of what is happening within football, preferring the old newspaper editor adage of “one issue at a time please gents; remember who our readers are.”
So it was with interest that I read him suggesting that, “I am told by TV that Sanchez’s stats, second half in particular, at Bayern Munich [in the first match] were surprisingly bad . They have been in a few games recently. Al (sic) those histrionics, throwing of arms, dramatically sitting on his haunches to emphasise how much he cares and his disappointment actually just disguised a really bad performance.”
That is interesting, because I haven’t read that in many places – and it is also very unusual for the Mirror to claim that there are actual statistics around (even if they don’t actually quote them) to back up any argument. (Of course in that regard they are no different from the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Star – the newspaper that only exists to… well, you know the rest of that one.)
We then have a lot of pictures which have explanations beneath them to make sure we get the point – such as “
“His attitude has been poor. It’s not just one row, but a few, he sulks when he is substituted, gets niggled and blanks people. It’s hard to work in training with a player with such an ego, with such a difficult approach and the last two or three weeks it’s become tougher.
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“That is why Sanchez was dropped at Liverpool but it wasn’t just that. His recent displays have been poor as well. That night at Bayern Munich was the worst and yet still people think he played well because he scored and did some amateur dramatics on the pitch.
“My belief is that he was dropped at Liverpool not just because of what’s happened in training but because of his performance at Bayern. Yes, it was a few weeks back but there’s not been many games since. It was a hangover from that.
“I’m also given to believe a large chunk of the squad thought it was correct to drop Sanchez. And as such, Wenger thought there would be a response from the others out to prove they can cope and win without the prima donna.”
Unfortunately we just never get to see the statistics, but it interesting to get the hint that they are out there, somewhere. And there is even a word of sympathy for the manager from the Mirror on this occasion.
“But it’s hard managing big players. Look at Antonio Conte. We all say he’s a genius. Well, he dropped Diego Costa when he played up in training. Exactly the same
“Wenger has managed Sanchez for nearly three years so he knows all about managing Sanchez. He bought him, got some great games out of him and has now dropped him for the first time ever. Yet everyone keeps saying he never drops big players or substitutes them.
“Sanchez was dropped for his woeful performance at Bayern as much as what he did or did not do in training.”
If there is disquiet about Alexis among the squad, then all these stories we are now hearing about how half the squad are so fed up that they are ready to leave Arsenal, might have a different point of origin.
Certainly some of the stories make no sense at all (like the story saying Cech is bemused that he is not allowed to play in the Champions League), and some seem just whimsical. Also there is a case to be made for the fact that some of the players would actually like to play for a team where the crowd get behind the team, rather than putting up placards and chanting against the manager (although to be fair the number doing that is small).
So it is intriguing. Maybe Alexis, overall, isn’t as good a player as we think. I thought he was superb against Bayern this week, until the penalty. And I have seen him play other games in which he was outstanding. He is also top of the goals plus assists league table with 17 goals plus nine assists – total 26. Last season the top player in the goals plus assists chart got 24 goals plus 12 assists – just 10 more than Alexis. Alexis has a maximum of ten games left to go, so certainly could top that.
Yet at what price? Certainly if he has become a half-a-game player who really annoys all the rest of the team, whatever the price, it might be too much.
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