Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez wants to be a legend

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on May 13, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on May 13, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

Alexis Sanchez is not just a world class player who wants to be a champion. He is actually a player who wants to be cemented as a legendary figure in the annals of football history. 

In their last three games, Arsenal has helped to paper over the cracks of a hugely disappointing season. While most fans will be overcome with a sense of “too little, too late”, we can’t help but be pleased with the team’s last three results and performances. Lifting curses against the once special Jose Mourinho and two road boogie teams in Southampton and Stoke City have restored a sense of positivity in the red half of North London.

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However, these results still cannot completely undo the damage that this turbulent season has had on the club’s psyche. Fans want real change and there has been no shortage of angst and vitriol to go around this season.

One player who has embodied that despondency the most this season has been Alexis Sanchez.  The Chilean talisman is certainly Arsenal’s most impactful player. His passion and drive are evident every second he is on the pitch. That passion has sometimes boiled over into childish tantrums and ugly moments.

These displays of anger and disappointment have led the vast majority of pundits and analysts to believe that Alexis will move on in the summer. With his eyes set on claiming true glory, many have insinuated that Alexis must go elsewhere to find it. For a long time, I was resigned to believe that Alexis was indeed dead set on leaving the club. However, in the past few games, I have been seeing a much different Alexis Sanchez.

Against Southampton, the Gunners found it hard to break down the Saints at St. Mary’s. However, in a moment of individual magic, Alexis Sanchez was able to lift the team over their south coast counterparts. What caught the eye of many was the way Alexis celebrated. As noted by Jake Polden of the Mirror, Sanchez made a clear gesture to the away fans after scoring his 60th-minute strike. Sanchez pounded his chest and slapped the Arsenal crest above his heart fervently.

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Of course patting/slapping the badge is not a sign of a player’s complete willingness to stay at the club. We’ve seen the same from the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. However, if this celebration happened in isolation I would disregard it as nothing more than a nice gesture in the moment.

Yesterday, though, against Stoke, Alexis doubled down on his affection for the club.

After picking up what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the second half of the game, Alexis drove onto a ball played by Hector Bellerin and ripped a deflected shot past Jack Butland for Arsenal’s decisive third goal. The fact that Sanchez was even on the pitch at the point in time was maddening but seeing the feisty Chilean push himself to the limit for the club was hugely encouraging. Many players would have simply stayed on the ground until a substitution was made, but not Alexis.

If that wasn’t enough, Sanchez then wheeled away towards the traveling fans and once again slapped the badge. He took the familiar celebration even further.

This time pointing directly at the badge and then directly to the ground, pantomiming the message “I’m staying right here”. Of course, this does not reflect what might happen in the negotiation room this summer, but it is a hugely encouraging sight.

Sanchez knows better than anyone how difficult and frustrating this season has been. For him to send this message to the fans would either be the most callous of gestures or an indication of his desire to succeed here at Arsenal. I will choose to go with the latter.

This brings me to my main point. Alexis Sanchez is a hugely competitive person. He wants to succeed so badly that he can’t help but let his emotions out. You can see the very same behavior when he is on international duty as well. From what I’ve seen of Alexis, I believe that he not only wants to claim glory, but he wants to be the main man who makes it happen also.

I don’t think Alexis wants to go to a team like Bayern Munich or even Juventus, to become just another piece to a much larger puzzle (he had that at Barcelona and left for a reason). Sanchez doesn’t want to be a cog in a machine or a part of an over-stacked ensemble cast. I think Alexis wants to stay at Arsenal and be remembered as the man who brought glory back to this sleeping giant of England.

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Arsenal has a long road ahead of them and the club will need to undergo some serious changes in order to begin fighting for the biggest honors in the football world. Alexis Sanchez will definitely be a huge part of that process. Alexis is already invested in Arsenal and the Chilean may be more interested in building a legacy with the Gunners than we think.