Alexis Sanchez: Assessing His Barcelona Contribution This Season
For a while now it has been the elephant in the room, but following Barcelona's ground-out win against Granada on Saturday, it has now escalated into something more worrying than before, something that people want to discuss more and more.
In fact, if they don't resolve their current problems – conceding easy goals, lack of concentration, missing chances and Alexis Sanchez – they may have difficulties when the really big games come round.
Hidden in that, is one of the reasons why Sanchez's form has now come under such scrutiny—Barca having problems.
Admittedly they are small problems, like points dropped here and there and struggling to win at Los Carmenes while not looking scintillating, but at a club where problems can be a rare breed, when they do exist, fingers are invariably pointed.
The fact those fingers are being pointed at the Chilean is unlikely to help, Sanchez himself admitted—after scoring twice against Cordoba in the Copa del Rey—to the FC Barcelona website that he is "a confidence player."
3 – Alexis Sánchez is the third forward of Spanish League who needs more minutes to score a goal (789). Late.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 11, 2013
Those two goals against a La Segunda outfit, one in the Champions League and one in La Liga are hardly enough to breathe the confidence back into a player who is obviously completely lacking in that department.
He's made just eight starts in La Liga this season, coming off the bench another eight times, and his stats in those appearances—if you delve a little deeper—can be telling (via whoscored.com).
One goal and three assists in those matches are hardly reinforced by the fact he takes just 0.8 shots per game. Against Granada, several times, he found himself fed through with an opportunity to pull the trigger, yet he waited. He's holding on to the ball for too long.
He only actually took one shot against La Grana, and playing on the left of a front three even the other areas were lacking—he made just one dribble and put in one cross, although his passing was around his average of 25 attempted to a completion rate of 88 percent (via whoscored.com).
Good performances have been few and far between for the 24-year-old. Against Osasuna in August he created a goal and looked tidy. Cordoba in the cup and Getafe at the beginning of February in the league were also stand out moments for him in a season of little joy so far.
At Udinese, after struggling out wide, he became their "Lionel Messi" playing in a more central forward position. It was there that he drew the attention of Europe's elite, which resulted in Barcelona making him their third most expensive signing ever—after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa.
Unfamiliar with playing a wider role after his central partnership with Antonio Di Natale, let a lone more team-based role as opposed to being the star, could be put down to Sanchez's lack of confidence, but his first season in Catalunya—even with two injuries—was relatively encouraging. It drew 15 goals and six assists in 40 appearances, from a wide position.
His contract runs until 2016, but with little signs of confidence filling his 5'7", stocky frame anytime soon—barring starring cameos in the Champions League or El Clasico—it may seem Sanchez's time at Camp Nou has reached a premium.
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