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Liverpool, Arsenal see differing results after keeping Coutinho, Sanchez

There was an awkward moment following Liverpool's Premier League victory at Bournemouth last Sunday, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain interrupted a postmatch televised interview with Philippe Coutinho following one question too many about his future at Anfield.

"He's been the most professional person I've seen all season," Oxlade-Chamberlain said, as Coutinho struggled for the right words to describe his own situation at the club. "He's been top quality from the start and every time he gets on the pitch he does his all for the club.

"That's the most important thing right now and it's not fair to ask those kind of questions."

Oxlade-Chamberlain, it must be said, is not the person to judge whether or not Coutinho should be subjected to "those kind of questions."

Liverpool's supporters will argue that they have a right to know whether their talismanic No. 10 sees his future at the club beyond January or next summer following his summer transfer request amid an attempt to drive through a move to Barcelona, so the interviewer had every right to put Coutinho on the spot.

But Oxlade-Chamberlain's intervention was instructive, nonetheless, as an insight into how the Brazilian is regarded within the Liverpool dressing room in the wake of his much-publicised efforts to leave Anfield.

Coutinho, despite his reluctance to rule out another push to leave in the near future, has knuckled down and got on with the job since failing to secure an escape route to the Camp Nou and Oxlade-Chamberlain's actions reflect the sense among his teammates that the playmaker is making a contribution.

It is a different story at Arsenal, however, where Alexis Sanchez has seemingly put himself into wind-down mode after seeing his £60 million deadline day move to Manchester City collapse in the final hours of the summer transfer window in August.

Where Coutinho has worked hard and retained the respect of his Liverpool teammates, Sanchez has become a peripheral figure in Arsene Wenger's team.

And with the two sides and players due to go head-to-head at the Emirates on Friday, the respective gambles of both clubs in terms of keeping their transfer-seeking stars are producing wholly different results.

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Philippe Coutinho
Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho have reacted differently after their desired moves did not happen.

Both Sanchez and Coutinho could yet move in January -- it would take a huge bid for Liverpool to even contemplate selling Coutinho next month to Barcelona, who would not be able to play him in the Champions League -- but while Liverpool have profited from keeping their star player in August, Arsenal and Wenger may wonder whether abandoning their plans to cash in on Sanchez have actually been worth it.

The performance data of both players suggests that Arsenal have made an expensive mistake, with Liverpool, in contrast, rejecting a £125m offer from Barcelona only to see Coutinho retain his value with his subsequent performances.

Sanchez's numbers have gone down this season, but Coutinho's have increased.

Sanchez, 29, has scored just four Premier League goals in 15 games this season, plus one in the Europa League, and created three league goals for his teammates.

At the same stage of last season, Sanchez had scored 14 goals for Arsenal on the way to hitting 30 in all competitions.

A year on, his goals ratio has dropped to 0.27 per match this term, way down on his overall return of 0.48 goals per match during his Arsenal career.

Coutinho, meanwhile, has scored 10 goals in all competitions, with five coming in 11 Premier League appearances, and has also racked up five assists in the league.

And where Sanchez's goals-per-match ratio has dropped, Coutinho's overall Liverpool strike-rate of 0.26 goals per match has climbed to 0.45 this season.

The former Inter Milan player has shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on playing alongside Lionel Messi at Barcelona by becoming a central figure in Liverpool's "Fab Four" attacking quartet alongside Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Sanchez, in contrast, has been overshadowed by Mesut Ozil, another Arsenal player whose contract has just six months left to run, with the Germany international rediscovering his best form despite the uncertainty over his own future.

Clearly, with Coutinho less than a year into a five-year contract at Anfield, Liverpool were in a position of strength when they dismissed Barcelona's interest during the summer.

At 25, Coutinho is still young enough to increase his value, so keeping him for one more season at least was never really going to affect Liverpool's bottom line.

Had he thrown in the towel, it would have made life difficult for all concerned, but Coutinho has at least shelved his frustrations and delivered on the pitch.

Only Sanchez will know whether he has given it his all at Arsenal, however.

Ultimately, if Arsenal finish in the top four and/or win the Europa League this season, the financial gamble of keeping Sanchez and then losing him for nothing will have just about paid off.

But Arsenal will have expected more from the Chilean, and his return has not been good enough.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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