Accepting cash for Alexis Sanchez would make mockery of Arsenal policy
This has already been an embarrassing week for Arsene Wenger. He saw his side thrashed 4-0 at Liverpool, and has since conducted one high-profile transfer turnaround by consenting to sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Surely he can't make it a hat trick of humiliations by agreeing to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City in a straight cash deal. If Arsenal were to take the money at this point, it would make a complete mockery of their entire summer transfer strategy.
It's already open to ridicule. Arsenal are engulfed in chaos in the final few days of the transfer window, with the futures of a sizeable portion of the Gunners yet to be sorted. Alongside Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain, there are also question marks over Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Perez, Jack Wilshere and more.
Having had all summer to sort out their squad, Arsenal are in a very precarious position. One more sale will probably push them into profit in this window, something that is unlikely to sit well with restless supporters. If they top that off with allowing Sanchez to leave, the mood at the club will sink further still.
It's true that Arsenal fans seem more open to losing Sanchez now than ever before. The defeat to Liverpool felt like an early death knell for their season. The logic of keeping the Chilean has always been that he represented their best hope of mounting a credible title challenge. After two defeats in their opening three games, that hope has died. There is a growing belief among Arsenal fans that the best solution might be to sell off the unhappy stars and use this season to rebuild and regenerate.
There might have been some merit in that plan, had it been put in place at the start of the summer. Arsenal would have had time to source and recruit a replacement for Sanchez, ensuring any money received was reinvested in long-term replacements. If he were to go now, it would seriously weaken an already wobbling squad.
That's presumably why Arsenal have been pushing for Manchester City to offer a player in exchange. Wenger probably recognises that represents Arsenal's best chance of bringing in a big star before Thursday night's deadline. It would also save him and the club some face -- instead of merely selling Sanchez, they could frame it as "signing Raheem Sterling."
Had Arsenal adopted this position before now, they could have done far more to make sure their squad would be able to withstand Sanchez's departure. The great example is their bid for Thomas Lemar -- Arsenal baulked at Monaco's asking price, thus failing to land one of their key targets. Had they known they might be getting a £70 million windfall for Sanchez, they could have paid what was required to land a suitable replacement.
As it stands, they're scrabbling around trying to cut a deal with City. Unsurprisingly, City don't appear particularly keen to trade in one of their more valuable assets. Instead, they're hoping to prey upon Arsenal's fear of losing both Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for nothing next summer, leaving them with a huge recruitment task and significantly less funds with which to do it.
Arsenal surely can't just accept a cash-only offer. Wenger may have prepared the ground a little when he said that ultimately the decision would lie with the board, but not even Stan Kroenke would risk the ire that selling Sanchez without a suitable replacement would inevitably unleash.
Selling Sanchez for a huge fee was actually a serious option earlier this summer -- now, it would simply be a white flag.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.