New Horizons, Old Anxieties: Reviewing West Ham vs. Arsenal

In the final portion of our Premier League Review, we look to the future of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as well as the return of a dormant neuroticism amongst Arsenal fans.
December 5, 2016, 7:44pm
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Having written towards the end of last week that West Ham could potentially upset Arsenal at the London Stadium, we must now take full responsibility for our erroneous prediction. It's not that Arsenal weren't ripe for an upset – and it seems likely they will still slip up on one of the giant banana skins of the next few weeks, with Stoke, Everton and Manchester City coming up – but rather that we underestimated just how much West Ham seem to fear playing at the London Stadium, and the deadly serious trouble that the East London side are in. They were comprehensively outplayed on Saturday evening, shredded defensively time and time again by Arsene Wenger's men. While Arsenal scored five, they could have had more. Much of that attacking elan was down to Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez who, not for the first time this season, inspired the team to a higher footballing plane.

While their form is in some ways a comfort to Arsenal fans, it also brings up some old neuroses. In recent weeks, as is always the way ahead of the January window, there have been rumblings about seismic transfers across Europe, with Ozil and Sanchez both linked to potential moves away. While these links seem highly tenuous for now, with the chances of such a move happening midway through a season infinitesimally small, there's a sense in which they might lay the groundwork for something more concrete in the not-too-distant future. Ozil has done little to dispel such rumours, responding coyly to queries about a return to Real Madrid and heaping praise upon Zinedine Zidane, while Sanchez is linked on a near weekly basis to the usual suspects in La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A.

With both players into the last couple of years of their current deals, it's quite possible this is nothing more than the smoke-and-mirrors hoopla associated with contract negotiation. Transfer speculation strengthens an agent's hand, and so has become an inevitable part of the financial wrangling between club, intermediaries and coveted star. That said, given their experiences in the transfer market, Arsenal fans have more reason than most of their rivals to worry about the possibility of players abandoning them. They have learned the hard way not to become too attached to talent, what with the demoralising period of financial disparity which followed their move to the Emirates a decade ago.

In perhaps the darkest times of the late-Wenger era, Arsenal fans were forced to stand by as first the remnants of the Invincibles, then players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, secured lucrative moves away from North London, often to destinations which were far too close to home. That period has left a psychological scar on the fanbase, which manifests itself in constant transfer anxiety and angst as to how the club gets its business done. Perhaps it's little wonder, then, that some supporters are ready to give credence to reports that Ozil and Sanchez are seeking new horizons. It's a thought which thrives on an old fear amongst Arsenal fans and which, in light of their scintillating performances this weekend, will only make them more desperate to see Ozil and Sanchez tied down post haste.