Alexis Sanchez's Lonely Last Days at Arsenal

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJanuary 19, 2018

Alexis Sanchez's Lonely Last Days at Arsenal

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    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has never enjoyed dealing with high-maintenance footballers, but he has always tried to ensure any rifts remain behind closed doors.

    However, that has been difficult with Alexis Sanchez this season. The Chile international pushed Wenger's patience to the limits before the Arsenal boss finally gave up on him.

    Sanchez began his meltdown in September. The club had stopped him from making a £60 million switch to Manchester City, and he responded with acts of petulance over the months that followed.

    By the time his move to Manchester was being sorted out, most team-mates no longer cared whether he signed for United or City. His departure has yet to be made official, but it seems just a matter of time.

    His talent may not mean they are better off without him, but there was no way he could remain part of an otherwise unified squad.

The Beginning of the End

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    Sanchez's body language has always been easy to read on the pitch.

    There is passion and hunger but also a seemingly selfish streak that makes everything about him.

    For most of his time at Arsenal, that trait was not too much of a problem; once his contract saga began to play out, though, it became a real issue.

    For the past 10 months, a sense of resentment has been simmering within the Arsenal squad, and it all began in March ahead of a Premier League clash with Liverpool.

    Sanchez was left on the bench at Anfield, and Matt Law and Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph later reported that a training-ground fall-out with team-mates was behind the decision. 

    The Chilean had walked off the pitch following a tackle he felt was over the top, and it is understood some players later confronted him about his attitude. 

    To be fair to Sanchez, walking out of a Wenger training session is apparently not something new. 

    One source told me: "I've seen it happen quite a few times with players—they are never punished. Last season, one player, who was not even a regular in the side, just walked off to the changing room before training was over. He never heard any more about it."

The Failed Move to Manchester City

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    Wenger does have a high tolerance level—possibly to his detriment at this stage—but his heart was in the right place when he decided not to sell Sanchez in August.

    Manchester City's £60 million offer was turned down on deadline day because Arsenal did not have time to replace him. Wenger felt he could still keep Sanchez motivated while his contract ticked down.

    The players were never so sure. There was discontent in the camp, and whispers were coming out of their London Colney training base at the time that certain senior players felt Arsenal should have cashed in. 

    In hindsight, Wenger's gamble did not pay off, and there has been a growing bitterness towards Sanchez this season.

    One of the clearest signs on the pitch of a Sanchez in-squad spat was with Aaron Ramsey. 

    Against Everton in October, the Chile international went berserk at him for not making a simple pass, and there was a curious situation a couple of weeks later at Manchester City, when Sanchez failed to pass to Ramsey when he would have been through on goal.

    But those moments were not the worst thing to undermine his final months at the Emirates Stadium.

Losing the Squad

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    Slowly the squad began to become more tired of Sanchez's behaviour, and their star player started to become more isolated.

    Laurent Koscielny is believed to have stepped in to try to get the former Barcelona player under control on more than one occasion.

    The first came after Sanchez walked out of training in that March incident. Sources told me there have been at least two other similar occasions. 

    For some Arsenal players, the January transfer window could not come soon enough.

    It was Sanchez's attitude that consistently caused most frustration, and after a 1-0 win at Burnley in November, other first-team players began to let him know how they felt.

    As described by David Hytner of the Guardian, senior players told Sanchez they were sick of the way he was acting on the pitch. The arm-waving and mini-tantrums were finally taking their toll.

    There were other incidents, too. At Southampton, Jack Wilshere is understood to have dug him out for being wasteful in possession—something that did not sit well with Arsenal's No. 7 and continued to rumble on after the game. And against Crystal Palace, certain players appeared not to celebrate one of his goals.

    There was a feeling that everything was too centred around him, both on and off the pitch. For the most part, his antics were ignored by team-mates, but at times he became unbearable.

    Insiders at Arsenal admit Sanchez had become difficult to be around.

    One source explained: "He has just been so intense all the time and sometimes comes across as a bit of a brat.

    "Of course the players wanted him to do well for the team, but at the same time I think it became annoying to see him gloat when he scored a goal. It was all about him, not the team. Everyone knew he wanted to leave."

    According to the Mirror's John Cross, Sanchez was forced to train away from the first team on Thursday, as his role as outcast became complete. 

No Way Back

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    Whether Sanchez was bothered what his team-mates thought of him is unclear, but even around the training ground, he did not endear himself to those around him. His personal agenda seemed to become more important than the direction of the team.

    He has been spending more time on his own, often on his phone, and usually staying quiet when the rest of the squad were bonding over team meetings and training sessions.

    "It is no coincidence that so many people at the club fell out with him in the last year," another Arsenal source said.

    Wenger never truly knows when to give up on a player, but when he looks back now, he will realise the hassle of putting up with Sanchez became pointless and cost the club millions.

    When Sanchez joined Arsenal in 2014, he said, "I came here to win the league title, the Champions League and every title at stake." 

    He leaves without a Premier League title, without a Champions League medal and without many friends.