Neil Humphreys: Sanchez fiasco shames Wenger
Arsenal dinosaur looks like a dodo on verge of extinction
Alexis Sanchez feels like the last straw. There's no way back for Arsene Wenger, not if his striker joins Manchester United.
The Arsenal manager's handling of the restless Chilean has been amateurish and out-of-touch.
And the Red Devils are poised to finish him off, to confirm his transition from dinosaur to dodo. Extinction beckons.
Exasperated Gunners might have just about accepted Sanchez's move to Manchester City. Like Philippe Coutinho and Barcelona, he was considering champions in waiting.
No one at Arsenal would've liked the defection, but they would've understood it.
But City are taking a stand against Sanchez's reported greed, pushing him towards Manchester United, a club increasingly willing to pay whatever it takes to maintain the illusion of supremacy.
That's a bridge too far for Arsenal fans.
At least Robin van Persie swopped the Emirates for Old Trafford to win the title. Sanchez is going for the money - money that the Gunners already have.
Arsenal's accountants can easily match United's insane package offer - rumoured to be around £35 million (S$63.8m) for a 29-year-old striker almost out of contract - but they lack the will to make it happen.
Both coach and club are short of ambition and any sense of what it takes to sustain a top-four challenge in the current climate.
Wenger had the option of selling Sanchez in pre-season for a tidy sum and reinvesting the revenue on a stale squad. But he played hardball.
Only it was the Frenchman's bizarre interpretation of hardball, insisting that his Arsenal were not a selling club.
But that's only true if they're also a buying club. The Gunners aren't. They're an irrelevant club.
Buying clubs must offer an incentive, a reason to believe in their project beyond the whimsical claims of their archaic manager.
Who really fancies joining Arsenal now? Their three leading footballers - Sanchez, Mesut Oezil and Jack Wilshere - are out of contract at the end of the season, an unthinkable scenario at either City or United.
Wenger assumed he was playing poker. But he overstated his ability to bluff, particularly when he was holding a lousy hand.
In truth, he's never had any leverage, or any carrot to keep the Chilean on side. Instead, Wenger opted for a clumsy-stick approach.
First, he refused to sell his best player. Then he dropped him. Smart move.
Wenger's brinkmanship achieved nothing other than Bournemouth's first ever victory over the Gunners.
His relationship with Sanchez is irretrievably broken and he's offered no compelling reason for Oezil or Wilshere to stay - or for anyone of note to join the club either.
More disastrously, he never prepared. As the Bournemouth humiliation demonstrated, there's no back-up plan for life after Sanchez.
There wasn't even a template in place for life with Sanchez.
Arsenal have drifted, dropping too many points on the road and falling away from the top four.
Juergen Klopp wasn't bowled over by Coutinho's intentions either, but the Liverpool manager at least ensured he had enough attacking variety to survive without the Brazilian (with plenty of Barcelona cash to strengthen further).
Wenger's got nothing. The Bournemouth defeat pulled back the curtain and exposed his frailties.
Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette are not the future of Arsenal. The trio are barely making an impact on the present.
Wenger's back three, the erratic Granit Xhaka, the lost cause of Theo Walcott and a bench with no depth read like the charge sheet of a condemned man.
Anyone under 21 would struggle to recall such an uninspiring Arsenal squad.
Between George Graham's trophy haul and Wenger's initial French revolution, there was a period in the mid-90s that might be called Arsenal's wilderness years.
But the back four of Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn would all replace the current lot. David Seaman, Paul Merson and Ray Parlour were also around.
All promised something more than the colourless display at Bournemouth.
Arsenal's squad are easily the worst for a generation with their most accomplished performers eyeing the exit.
But a Sanchez move to United would be too much to bear because it's entirely avoidable from a financial standpoint.
The Anfield faithful will accept Coutinho's move, barely, because he was fulfilling a common South American ambition and Klopp already had a contingency plan.
But Wenger has bungled from start to finish, mishandling his restless striker and misreading the transfer market. He just about got away with selling van Persie to the old enemy. But he'll never be forgiven if Sanchez ends up at Old Trafford.
Chilean's future to be settled by today
Arsene Wenger confirmed he expects Alexis Sanchez's future to be resolved imminently after the Arsenal forward was left out of his side's 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth on Sunday.
Sanchez, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season, is a target for Manchester United and Manchester City who came close to signing the Chile international on the final day of the last transfer window.
United have emerged as strong contenders because of their willingness to meet Arsenal's £35-million (S$63.9m) asking price, with the possibility of Henrikh Mkhitaryan being included as part of any deal.
Wenger insists all options remain open but felt unable to select the player for the visit to the Vitality Stadium although he insisted Sanchez was willing to play.
"Alexis would have played," said the Arsenal manager. "But it's a difficult period for him. He's always been committed until now but he could have moved yesterday, today or not.
"It will be decided in the next 48 hours. It was a bit difficult for him because he was on stand-by, a little bit. That's why I decided not to do it. He did not refuse to play."
Asked if a deal was imminent, Wenger said: "I don't master the rhythm of that but it could happen today, tomorrow or not at all. That's why I didn't take a decision (to select him)... I didn't want to travel with him and suddenly he goes somewhere."
Wenger criticised his side's lack of cutting edge as they squandered a number of chances before allowing Bournemouth to recover from falling behind to Hector Bellerin's opening goal to win through strikes from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe.
He also insisted he would recruit a new forward to replace Sanchez if the forward left.
Arsenal have been linked with a £35m move for Bordeaux forward Malcom but Wenger refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian.
"No. There is nothing concrete there," said the manager.
And when pressed on whether the 20-year-old is a target, he added: "It's better I don't come out on any specific name." - AFP