If you believe the papers, everything is not entirely settled within Arsenal Football Club. Murmurs of discontent cover the back pages as Ozil and Sanchez’s contract negotiations drag on amid tensions about the club’s future – with or without Arsene Wenger.
Murmurs that Ozil is seeking assurances of a future with Wenger at the helm, Sanchez unhappy with the output of his colleagues, leaving him to shoulder the attacking burden solo.
If you believe such things, and the author believes there is often no smoke without fire – then Arsenal Football Club have some serious decisions to make should the club’s two truly world-class players choose to seek out silverware during their final, prime years.
Does the club replace them with like-for-like quality? Is there even that option available in the current market? The author doubts it, so in this piece I’ll be listing a couple of replacements for each that could make an impact immediately, and still grow in the future.
Let’s start with Ozil;
1) Bernardo Silva, age 22 , currently playing for Monaco in Ligue 1
A player much talked about to be Portugal’s answer to the Luis Figo shaped hole in the national team. Currently enjoying a barn-storming season in the principality. Whilst Silva isn’t as economical with the ball, averaging 1.2 less ‘key passes’ a game currently, all you need to do is rewatch Monaco’s recent game against Manchester City to understand just how much of a driving force behind Monaco’s play he is. Playing from a wide-right position currently, cutting inside from deep and providing balls forward to quick forwards like Mbappe and (ironically) Falcao. Having scored or assisted in 15 games this season out of 40, his impact at just 22 at the highest levels is 1 in 2. He would drive a high price and who’s to say he would even want to make the move from Monaco at this time? It would be remiss of Arsenal to not even make the enquiry call.
2) Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, aka Isco, age 24, currently playing for Real Madrid in La Liga
A player often in and out of fashion with Zidane, the Madrid supporters and Spanish media. Having only made 12 starts and 8 substitute appearances in La Liga this year, his impact is obvious with 6 goals and 5 assists in those 20 appearances. You may argue that his statistics are somewhat padded given that he’s playing behind Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema – but in a league as technical as La Liga is, you still need to be up to scratch. Compared to Ozil this year, Isco’s numbers would far exceed the German’s if he would have been given more playing time within Zidane’s system. A player very often linked with a move to the Premier League, he would thrive given the central creative role that Ozil currently resides within. Perhaps if and when Madrid need to balance the books after their next big signing, Isco will be made available just as Ozil was once.
Now, let’s look at a pair of replacements for Arsenal’s dynamo, Alexis Sanchez;
1) Alexandre Lacazette, age 25, currently playing for Lyon in Lique 1
The Frenchman is arguably the hottest striker in the world currently not at a ‘top’ European club, although that’s somewhat disrespectful to Lyon’s illustrious history. Having scored over a 100 times for his current club in just over 200 games, his scoring record is equal with the best out there currently. Having also scored more goals than Alexis Sanchez in this current season (27 times to Alexi’s 21). At the age of 25, he is entering his prime years as a forward and is very heavily linked to a move to the Premier League in the coming seasons. Arsenal have had contact with Lyon previously about this move and should Sanchez decide he wants to leave, then I see no better candidate for a wide-forward or centre-forward option than Lacazette.
2) James Rodriguez, age 25, currently playing for Real Madrid in La Liga
James Rodriguez, the €80m wide-playmaker bought from Monaco after the 2014 Brazilian World Cup where he delighted fans both of Colombian and neutral origins. He hasn’t quite found his feet yet wearing the whites of Real Madrid. Often showing what he is capable of, his starts this year have been scarce to say the least. He’s only started 6 games, and another 5 as substitute – that hasn’t stopped him from scoring 2 goals and laying on 5 assists. Meaning in three-quarters of his appearances this year, he has had an impact. You can’t argue too much with that, given that the last real season he was given any decent amount of game time 2014-15, in just under 40 games he scored 14 and assisted 15 – again meaning he made a lasting impact on three quarter of his games played. Now, would Real Madrid look to recoup that hefty transfer fee – or given his lack of playing time and big wages, would they be happy to sell him onto a non-La Liga rival for the sort of money that brought Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal in the first place? It’s almost certain that any proceeds from Sanchez’s sale would certainly go a long way to tempting Rodriguez away from Real Madrid.