Arsenal were humiliated on Tuesday night. Bayern Munich ran rampant as Arsene Wenger’s men once again demonstrated a psychological weakness. Arsenal’s top players did not turn up and there was a woeful lack of fight; it was predictable, really.
It might be a taboo in the footballing community, but it’s time Alexis Sanchez faced some criticism. He is often revered as Arsenal’s best player and sympathised with, and as such is immune from criticism – indeed, he is Arsenal’s best player and is miles ahead of his team-mates, even Mesut Ozil. Sanchez’s quality and technique are undeniable and he possesses the ability to win a match: something he has done many times for Arsenal this season.
But, there are a few issues that seem to go unnoticed in the mainstream media.
Sanchez’s sulking is portrayed as a player who wants to play every minute, who wants to win, who won’t accept failure; it is part of the perception created by the media. But, for me, it is not conducive to anything beneficial.
Pictures of Sanchez on his hind legs after Arsenal have conceded and the Chilean burying his head in his coat after being substituted do not sit comfortably and aren’t compatible with notions of team spirit and success.
It is time Sanchez bear some more responsibility. Granted, he has been Arsenal’s best player and has carried the Gunners at times with his magic, but he is no leader. And Arsenal needs leaders.
Instead of crouching down and lamenting your team conceding a goal – something he did on Tuesday against Bayern Munich – Sanchez should have jumped up and motivated his team-mates.
What are the likes of Francis Coquelin, who had a nightmare at the Allianz Arena, Gabriel and Alex Iwobi going to think when they see their star player sulking? Are they going to be inspired? Motivated? Certainly not.
Sanchez’s reaction gives every single Arsenal player permission to do the same. To drop their heads, to accept their fate and limp to a 5-1 defeat, praying for the referee’s whistle.
The Chilean’s work-rate is often praised in the press, but he didn’t run a lot on Tuesday. His team were under the cosh for virtually the whole match; Sanchez needed to provide an outlet, to constantly show and, more importantly, to harry Bayern’s defence and midfield.
He started off well enough but gave up well into the second half – about the time Arsenal conceded their third. About the time Arsenal needed players like Sanchez to stand up and lead by example, to inspire his teammates, to stand strong and not allow the game to turn into an embarrassment.
It would have been better had Sanchez sprinted half-way across the pitch to scream at his teammates. To show some passion, some fire and rile up his companions. Even if it hurt a few egos, even if it dented some relationships. Then maybe the few thousand Arsenal supporters who made the trip wouldn’t have left some embittered.
It is no way just Sanchez’s fault that Arsenal emphatically capitulated against the German champions, but the Gunners’ star man needs to start shouldering some responsibility. The forward has been one of the very few positives about Arsenal’s season – but more is needed from him.