No winners in Sanchez saga but Arsenal worse off than Man City
In the end, Alexis Sanchez missed out on his move from Arsenal to Manchester City because of sheer bad planning.
A £60 million deal, left until the final hours of the transfer window, is a risky way to do business, but while City ran out of time, it was perhaps their misfortune to have to engage with Arsenal -- a club mired in crisis -- as they attempted to get the deal over the line.
Pep Guardiola had made the Chilean forward a top target before the end of last season and City should have moved earlier than Aug. 29 to get their man, so that was a key error on their part.
Yet Arsenal, who not only knew that Sanchez wanted to leave, but also that City would, at some stage, make a formal offer, failed spectacularly to have a replacement lined up for the former Barcelona forward, whose contract had already entered its final 12 months.
City's move for Sanchez, which began with a £50m offer on Tuesday, was no surprise to anyone and nor was their readiness to increase the bid on Thursday to a package worth an eventual £60m to the Gunners.
But it was not until the final hours of the window that Arsenal submitted a £90m offer to Monaco for forward Thomas Lemar, a player they have chased all summer but one who Arsene Wenger publicly admitted last week would be almost impossible to prise away from the French champions.
When Monaco accepted the last-day bid, it seemed all systems were go, only for Lemar to decide against the move. Arsenal were therefore left without someone to replace Sanchez and so the plug was swiftly pulled on plans to do business with City. It was a chaotic end for Arsenal to a hugely unsatisfactory transfer window, in which only two players -- Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac -- arrived at the Emirates.
City, meanwhile, became increasingly bemused, frustrated and angry by their dealing with the London club's hierarchy over Sanchez; sources told ESPN FC that City chief executive Ferran Soriano has been in contact with Arsenal "all summer" in an effort to negotiate a deal, only to be told consistently that the player was not for sale.
Yet after being given encouragement earlier this week that Arsenal would be prepared to sell the 28-year-old after all, City lodged and then increased a bid with enough time, they believe, for Arsenal to fill the void that would be left. By 4 p.m. BT on Thursday, there was confident they had all but secured Guardiola's man.
But Arsenal failed to complete a deal for Lemar and then suggested that City had left them without enough time to complete what would have been a club-record signing. The fallout has been dominated by claim and counter-claim and it is clear that both clubs made costly mistakes.
However, while City would unquestionably be stronger with Sanchez, they still possess a squad capable of winning the Premier League and challenging for the Champions League without him. Arsenal, then, have ended as the biggest losers in this transfer saga.
They are stuck with a player who has made no secret of his desire to play for somebody else, one whose public displays of frustration are unhelpful at best and one who they now face losing for nothing at the end of the season, less than 12 months after having a £60m offer on the table.
Maybe there are positives. By keeping Sanchez, Arsenal have held onto their best player and he might yet score the goals to see them finish in the top four. If that happens, he may even sign a new contract to stay at the Emirates.
David De Gea did just that at Manchester United two years ago after the deadline-day collapse of a move to Real Madrid, but such a scenario appears less likely with Sanchez. Sunday's capitulation against Liverpool does not bode well for the rest of Arsenal's season, meaning the main outcome of his collapsed move will likely be financial woe for the club.
Still, Sanchez is not the only player to miss out on a dream move during this now-closed window and he faces the same battle as that confronting Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk at Southampton and, perhaps, Diego Costa at Chelsea.
All four must now shake themselves down and focus on staying where they are, until January at the very least. Arsenal, meanwhile, having made such a mess of their window and deadline day, must start looking for Sanchez's replacement because they cannot afford to have another bad plan next summer.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_