At this point it is more a case of when, rather than if, the dynamic duo of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will be departing from Premier League giants Arsenal.
For two players with such differing styles and approaches on the pitch, there have been some eerie similarities off it. It seems almost fitting that they, who have undoubtedly been the Gunners’ two best players over the past few seasons, should depart in unison.
What’s worrying is that Arsene Wenger is taking little flak for this situation. If there was ever a sign that your manager is perhaps not up to the task anymore it was the fact that your two star players want to leave the club, but perhaps that is a debate for another day, and another article.
When tracking the career paths of Sanchez and Ozil, their time in Spain, at two of the world’s greatest clubs, is what perhaps defines them best. The former spent three seasons at Barcelona, joining in July 2011 and leaving for North London in July 2014. 141 appearances and 47 goals across all competitions was the mark that Sanchez left on the Blaugrana, and he left as a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup champion.
Ozil meanwhile was situated across the rivalry at Real Madrid. The midfielder, like Sanchez, spent three full seasons in Spain, scoring 27 times in 159 appearances. He too left as a La Liga and Copa del Rey champion, joining Arsenal a year before his soon-to-be teammate.
In North London they have become two players often mentioned in the same breath, world class figures in a constantly under-performing team. To many it is little surprise that the pair want to leave, and the impact of their decisions will likely send shockwaves through the club. The question on many people’s lips then is which one will be missed more?
Missed by the statistics
Statistics certainly aren’t everything in football, but they are often the best way to judge a player’s success in the relevant areas to their position. For instance, Sanchez has scored 60 goals for the Gunners in the Premier League, while Ozil has bagged 27. When you look at assists however, the Chilean’s 25 Premier League assists pales in comparison to the German’s 47. Their successes in different areas reflect their different roles within the team, and in terms of goal contributions there is little to separate the pair.
Statistically then they are hugely important in difference ways, with Sanchez finishing off chances that have often been created by Ozil. Taking away one would thus negatively impact the other, so it is difficult to argue that either one would be missed more based solely on statistical evidence. Another interesting thing to note is that, while Sanchez has played a season less than his teammate, the pair have played a similar number of games for the club. Some of that is of course down to fitness and injury, but it is little secret that the Chilean has a huge drive to play and succeed in every game possible.
Missed by the manager
Football managers love two things – winning, and their players running a lot for them. Arsene Wenger is arguably the most experienced manager left in the game, and he surely knows that Mesut Ozil is what many people describe as a ‘luxury player’. The term refers to players who don’t necessarily contribute the full physical effort of most other players in the team, but rely instead on supreme talent to limit the amount of running, and often defending, that they have to do. A classic example would be someone like Dimitar Berbatov, and Ozil fits that mould well. You will rarely see the midfielder running full pelt across the pitch to regain possession, or making a last-ditch tackle, but his contributions to the team in other ways make up for that.
Sanchez meanwhile is quite the opposite. Despite possessing arguably the same amount of talent as his teammate, the winger could run forever and never get tired. He is the Jamie Vardy of Chile, which makes him a hugely appealing player to his manager. Sanchez wants to play every game because he wants Arsenal to win every game, and that sort of attitude would likely make Wenger tremble just that little more at the prospect of his departure.
Missed by the fans
This of course is the most subjective section of this article, but fans do get very attached to certain players, and their departures can be devastating, especially for the much younger match-goers. I spoke to two Arsenal fans, both of whom had different views on whether Sanchez or Ozil would be missed more.
21-year old Jack, who has had an Arsenal season ticket for six years, said, “For me it’s Alexis, the guy’s a joke when he’s on form and that can be almost every game. He wins games on his own, and if we didn’t have him I think I’d feel even more embarrassed than I already do by our current situation.”
27-year old Harry, who has been a Gunners fan apparently since birth, had a conflicting view: “Ozil is so good to watch because he looks like he isn’t interested one second and then he’ll pop up with something incredible to get you off your seat. I also remember when he refused to walk to the referee to receive a yellow card, against Norwich I think, and the ref ended up having to walk to him. That’s my kind of player!”
Whether you prefer Sanchez or Ozil, and whether you believe one will be missed more than the other, seems to depend on what you want to see from a footballer. Many like the slow-paced, almost lazy and arrogant style of the German, while others value the effort and clean determination to win of the Chilean.
Good luck to Arsene Wenger. That is perhaps the only conclusion one can come to in this scenario, with Arsenal set to lose their two best players as they already sit down in sixth spot in the Premier League table. Both Sanchez and Ozil bring something different to this Gunners team, and each are as invaluable as the other on the pitch. The intriguing thing now is to see just how well the North London side can cope without them.
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