Rushing on the ball, working hard but fruitlessly off the ball, and generally looking a shadow of himself: what’s up with Alexis Sánchez?
The Chilean doesn’t have long to find his best form, which we’ve not truly seen all season, if he wants to hugely contribute to Arsenal’s title race. The next two weekends see the Gunners play away from home against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, and he is needed to make a difference.
Good Champions League form from Alexis during the group stage helped Arsenal qualify, but a title charge has been based on the foundation of Mesut Özil’s form. It’s good to know that Arsenal can win without Alexis, but they’re going to need him to come up with big performances between now and May.
On Saturday the 27-year-old had little time to influence play, coming off the bench with half an hour to go, but he was noticeably less effective than Danny Welbeck, who had been playing on the left-hand side. Predictable and desperate to find some rhythm, Alexis’ go-to move of driving inward onto his strong right-foot is dangerous at its best but too obvious when defences are compact. He looks to flick the ball inside before unleashing a shot or cross on his strong side, but it’s simple to stop when everyone can see it coming.
Against Leicester City last weekend, the forward had some fine opportunities but always miscued his attempts. The story was very much the same on Saturday, as Alexis struggled against Championship side Hull City. Last season he was their tormentor, scoring four times and assisting two times in three appearances. This year? Easily stifled. He’ll get another crack at them in the replay.
Before then, though, Arsenal need him to shift into top gear. Could Barcelona be the perfect time for a shift in gears? The entire defence of the European champions has worked closely with Alexis and will no doubt fear what he can do to them. Likewise, he knows just how afraid of his abilities they may be.
Arsenal need an in-form Alexis Sánchez again, please be that man in midweek.