It seems that today the word “legend” gets thrown around freely by fans. It is understandable, to an extent. Fans are emotionally invested in their team, and its players. It’s easy enough to get the supporters teary-eyed and mellow when an exciting forward comes along and has a couple of great seasons in front of goal. And suddenly the forwards is nearing legendary status in the eyes of some.
I’ve noticed this trend a while back. A trend, which, in my opinion, contributes to the devaluation of the word “legend”, as it completely ignores the individual’s motives for joining the club or staying with it.
By this point you’ve probably grasped where I am going with this (besides the headline being a dead give-away!) But actually, it’s not just Alexis Sanchez that comes to mind as I type these words. It’s our other star attacker too, Mesut Ozil.
Two recent incidents made me tip over on the issue. First was a banner by one of Chile’s fans during the Confederations Cup which read “Stay with Arsenal, Alexis, and you’ll become a legend”. The second concerned Mesut Ozil, and it was a rather innocuous tweet, stating Ozil will become a legend if he extends, if he isn’t one already. I can’t argue with the first part of that statement, I’m not a clairvoyant. The second part of it I strongly disagree with. Let’s start with the German.
Why Mesut Ozil isn’t an Arsenal great for me, and is unlikely to become one
The notion of a player qualifying for the legendary status because he spent his prime years with the club, or because he stayed for a certain period of time is absurd.
Is Theo Walcott a legend for you? He meets both criteria listed above, yet no one calls him a legend. Moreover, he recently passed the 100-goal mark, which many lauded as an unbelievable achievement. He stayed on for 11 years, same as Bergkamp, however I see no one use the pair in the same sentence. So why does Mesut Ozil qualify with just 4 years of Arsenal football under his belt?
The German is a unique player alright. He is a player we need, around whom our game and set-up is built (rightly or wrongly) and we’ll miss his creative influence if and when he leaves. But calling him a legend?
You might regard me as conservative (not a popular word nowadays), however for me legendary status stems from living and breathing Arsenal. If that’s too wide a definition which looks like dodging an answer, I’ll specify: legendary is a player who cares for the good of the Club more than he does for his own.
Ozil doesn’t strike as that type of person. I have no doubt he loves London, he admires Arsene Wenger (who was the major reason the German joined) and … that he’s comfortable at Arsenal. But no more than that. He’ll likely extend his current deal, though not out of his love for Arsenal if you ask me. He will because no top club is really interested in buying him, otherwise we would be having a situation with him akin to that of Sanchez. A summer of speculation. And speaking of Sanchez…
Why Alexis Sanchez is not an Arsenal great for me, and is unlikely to become one
In a word, because he is selfish. On the pitch and off it. If you wanted me to describe him, I would say “a gun for hire”. Pun intended. A mercenary.
He has no love or loyalty for the Club, however much we want to believe the opposite. At least with Ozil we know he generally likes Arsenal. I’m not sure Alexis has any bond whatsoever to the Gunners, and that’s why I don’t have a bond to him.
He is a great player, that’s not in dispute. If the Chilean leaves, our first order of business would be to replace the goals and assists he takes with him. Albeit it can be argued we did that by sealing the deal for Lacazette. However I’m not so sure on that front. Lacazette’s arrival likely means a departure further up from where Alexis is playing. Either Giroud or Walcott if I had to guess, with Lucas already a dead man walking.
Back to Sanchez, and there are other things I have to mention in this mini-profile. Like his tendency to lose the ball (a lot), his weak link up with other teammates (barring Ozil, and maybe Walcott) and his overall hunt for personal glory. We know at least Ramsey hates the Chilean’s guts, and I doubt the Welshman is alone in that.
Sanchez’ not-so-befriending traits extend to off-pitch behavior too. I’m sure he has a working relationship with Arsene Wenger, but I still remember the training ground bust-up in March and the saga with his possible transfer this summer is here to stay. I doubt Sanchez is a positive influence in the dressing room or at London Colney and his current extortion campaign amounts to nothing more than taking care of himself.
If he stays, it will either be because we will flat out refuse to sell and let the contract run out, or because we match the offer from the potential buyers. Of course he will say all the right things if he extends, but I don’t for a second believe Alexis has the team’s, or Club’s, best interests at heart. He won’t be the one to put himself in the same bracket as the rest of the team.
I have a friend whose stance on Alexis Sanchez is radical, however she made a good case for why that is. In short, she’d sell Sanchez in a heartbeat to just get rid of his ego on and off the field. And to end the team’s reliance on him, as well as to bring balance to the side. Sanchez, for all his output, wants the biggest piece of pie for himself.
You want to tell me he deserves a legendary status after all this? I’d nominate Kieran Gibbs for that before I nominate Sanchez.
My initial intention for this article was somewhat simpler. I just wanted to tell that, for me, there is a difference between Alexis leaving (if he does) and, say, Thierry Henry. I was devastated when the Frenchman left and it was a very simple thing he did to deserve my respect: he stayed after the Paris loss.
He showed that he cared. Not only did he give us his best years, became top scorer and captain, but he showed genuine affection for the Gunners. Years after the Frenchman left Arsenal, he talked about how much he hated walking down Nou Camp tunnel, simply because there was a picture of Barcelona players celebrating the 2006 CL final win.
I can’t imagine Alexis or Ozil saying something like this, and not only because we don’t look anywhere near ready to reach the CL’s final. As much as I can’t imagine either making a sacrifice for the Club because they put its interests above their own. Maybe less so with the German, but you get the idea.
So stop putting them onto a pedestal. They haven’t done nearly enough to warrant special treatment, despite what their agents might have you believe.