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Draxler, Sterling or Brahim? Why Arsenal must drop Alexis Jan cash plan

COMMENT: Arsene Wenger says, even at 67 today, he's still learning. And you hope so, because come January Manchester City are threatening to take Arsenal for a ride.

20 million quid for Alexis Sanchez. £20m for a player who can leave for nowt in June. It's good business, right? Making the best from an awkward situation. But why the obsession with cash at Arsenal?

Alexis is a great asset. The best on the Gunners' books. And with that cache, the front office at London Colney should be thinking more creatively than simply seeing the readies they can rake in.

If this summer's frantic deadline day taught Gooners anything, it should've been that cash, in today's era of global TV deals, is no longer what makes or breaks the market. Money isn't your greatest asset. You can find that anywhere. TV. The 'net. UEFA. They're throwing it at clubs of the level of Arsenal. What matters is the players. Who has them. And who's prepared to give them up.

'€70m'. On deadline day. To be more accurate, deadline afternoon. That was Ivan Gazidis' opening offer, barking down the phone to Monaco's vice-president Vadim Vasilyev. Thomas Lemar was officially in play.

Minutes later, the Arsenal chief exec took a call from Vasilyev, informing him Liverpool had raised the stakes to €90m. '€100m!', was Gazidis' reply. Good money. Record money. But ASM were in a sound financial position. There was no reason to sell. But out of courtesy, Vasilyev informed Lemar of the two offers and left the final decision with the France international.

Lemar returned to the fiasco last week, recalling how he took the call on his way to the Stade de France for that evening's international.

"It was nerve-wracking, but on my side I was rather calm. I was more focused on the France squad, I did not see much of what was going on," was Lemar's recollection.

"In the end, there was no time to make such an important decision."

And no pressure from Vasilyev. Monaco could afford to turn down €100m. Yes, they'd released Kylian Mbappe to PSG. But that was on-loan, the record money wouldn't be arriving until next year. Yet still ASM were well placed to reject Gazidis' (and Liverpool's) madcap attempts. Just as Barcelona had found with Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho. The transfer market, at least for those at the elite level, is rapidly changing.

Which is why Arsenal need to think deeper than simply what price they can convince someone to pay for Alexis. Whether it's City, PSG or AC Milan, it has to about players. It has to be about who these clubs are willing to sacrifice and send the other way.

At City, it's obvious. Raheem Sterling. The Londoner. A player admired by Wenger. Improving and in-form, he wouldn't be like-for-like, but would offer Arsenal value for money in the Alexis trade.

Sterling has stated he was never interested in the mooted swap floated over August. But he would, wouldn't he? The England international isn't suddenly going to 'fess up about his wish to return to London with the window shut and him now winning over Pep Guardiola.

The same clear options exist at PSG and Milan. Both are confirmed suitors of Alexis - and boast assets Arsenal have been linked with in recent weeks. At PSG, it's long-term Gunners favourite Julian Draxler. A twice visitor to London Colney, could this January, thanks to Alexis, make it finally third time lucky for Wenger and Arsenal?

Draxler wants out. Relegated to the bench following Mbappe and Neymar's arrival, he won't be sticking around should Alexis also arrive. A swap would suit all parties.

At Milan, where it's been claimed their Chinese owners have assured Arsenal they'll better any offer made for Alexis over the New Year, Andre Silva has been mentioned as a player of interest. That he only moved in the summer from Porto would complicate things, but a deal similar to Liverpool's regarding Naby Keita and RB Leipzig could be entertained.

For his part, Alexis favours staying in England and a reunion with his old Barcelona coach at City. And for the Gunners, in terms of Sterling, it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

This column would argue, if City refused the proposal, Arsenal could do worse than insist Brahim Diaz be included in a cash-plus-player operation. In Spain, they say he's the best of a generation. So much so, that Barcelona and Real Madrid are both angling to try and and reel him back home.

But Wenger could make a decent pitch to the exciting No10 and his family, particularly with Mesut Ozil to follow Alexis out the door. There is a clear path to the first team for Brahim. Certainly one more guaranteed than the pie-in-the-sky stuff Real and Barca would propose.

Either way, what is certain is that Arsenal would have little to no chance of tempting clubs to part with any of those mentioned if it came down to straight cash.

Alexis is a great trading asset. This January, in a market flush with money, Wenger and Gazidis must make the most of him.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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