Arsenal can’t score.
Last season this wasn’t always an issue, as Alexis Sánchez scored or created a goal and handed us with a get out of jail free card.
With Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all out with injuries at various times, the Chilean played in three different positions in his first half of a season at the club. A spell centrally in a versatile front two with Danny Welbeck was Alexis’ most fruitful, he was free to roam and could strike at any moment.
At times he played on the right; a stunning goal against Hull showed what he can do from the position he took up during his time at FC Barcelona.
Cutting in from the left, Alexis found a natural position in the team and one that suited him as he is so desperate to join in all the time and can use a place on the left to move onto his favoured right foot.
The versatility of the forward was being used well, his first 29 Arsenal appearances brought 17 goals and nine assists. Any player would be happy with that return which, while always likely to prove unsustainable, was the mark of a top level player.
As Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud returned to fitness, Alexis had to play from the left. That’s when his form really dipped.
Only ever on the left wing, Alexis cuts inside and looks to be direct. He never goes on the outside of his fullback and very rarely waits for his own left-back to overlap him once he’s come inside to create space.
With blistering pace, incredible strength and an eye for goal Alexis should make far more runs off the ball like Theo Walcott does when playing on the other side. It’s incredibly rare to see the Chilean run off the shoulder and behind the defence, looking to catch the eye of a midfielder. It’s something Arsenal could use a lot more of.
We need more variation in our game and Alexis can offer it, even if he is always playing from the left. He needs to change his game up more to become unpredictable because, right now, you know exactly what he’s going to do when he gets the ball.
Through February and March last season Alexis scored once in 10 games, and was starting to look jaded and predictable. A match-winning cameo in an otherwise subdued 90 minute performance at QPR kept most critics at bay but this was no longer the explosive player who had arrived in north London.
A superb strike against Liverpool and three goals at Wembley, two against Reading and an FA Cup final scorcher, saw the season end with a slight improvement before Alexis left for the Copa América.
While his performances there were widely criticised, Chile went on to win the competition with Alexis netting the winning penalty in the final against Argentina.
After a short break, he returned to London and Arsène Wenger thrust him straight back into competitive action.
Sure, he’s fit now, but he needed a break. Arsenal currently have an Alexis Sánchez who looks incredibly burnt out, and that’s a huge waste.
Zero goals and assists speak for themselves, but those thing come and go, right?
Unfortunately, Alexis’ performances this campaign are, statistically, worse than last season in almost every regard. Let’s have a look out what he’s producing right now compared to last season. The first number is from the Premier League in 2014/15, the second number from this season so far and all stats are arranged per 90 minutes.
Shots (inside the box): 3.5 (1.8)/5.2 (3.2)
Key passes: 2.5/1.2
Dribbles (completion): 3.3 (58.7%)/2.2 (56.5%)
Attempted tackles (interceptions): 3.7 (1.2)/2.7 (1)
It’s not just goals and assists, Alexis is managing to do less all over the pitch: his high number of shots haven’t brought any goals; he’s creating less; he is attempting fewer dribbles and tackles; he is giving the ball away more often.
Interestingly he is playing more passes and completing more of them. Is Alexis playing it safe when he moves the ball on because he’s losing it a lot when he goes alone?
Arsenal have an absolute star in Alexis, but he has become stagnant. Playing in the same position every week he has become predictable, as he tries to make the most of what he clearly feels are his biggest strengths.
At his very sharpest, Alexis can be predictable and still effective. Right now he is not sharp, and being shut out of games easily.
Play him in a different role or give him a rest. It’s your call, Arsène.