Ever since Alexis Sanchez returned from a two-month injury in late January, his performances have been rather predictable.
He’d start on the left wing, receive the ball, cut inside, run into a smorgasbord of defenders and lose the ball. Then he’d go back to the left wing, receive the ball, cut inside……… etc etc.
So it was a bit of a surprise that as the match started, it was Alex Iwobi who was standing on the left wing and not the Chilean.
Alexis had been deployed in the role that he was given on his arrival at Arsenal; right wing.
It was a minor tactical tweak, but it was one that seemed to spark life into him.
Time and again, instead of running with the ball with his head down and three defenders around him, Alexis was more interested in getting into space and making runs inside so that Hector Bellerin had as many opportunities as possible to run at Jordi Alba as possible.
Instead of being given free reign on the left to attack as he pleased, he was replicating the role Aaron Ramsey was performing on the right, acting as an outlet for Mesut Özil and helping press in midfield.
It worked as well as it could, considering that no team in world football can play around the high press like Barcelona can.
But instead of looking lost on the left, Alexis was far more involved with the build-up play when Arsenal had possession, looking to get Bellerin and the again-excellent Mohammed Elneny on the ball as often as possible.
He was working within Arsenal’s plan of attack, instead of being Arsenal’s plan of attack.
Arsenal’s goal came as a direct result of Alexis playing with his head up.
If he had received the ball on the opposite wing whilst a similar distance from goal, he would have tried to beat his man and had a shot.
Instead, he feints to run to the byline, makes Jerome Mathieu back-pedal towards his own goal, which left room for Elneny to run onto a through-ball and stroke the ball home.
Simple, but effective.
That was Alexis’ fifth assist in the Champions League this season, more than anyone else at the club. It appears as if he is finally coming back into form after a long hiatus.
With a massive game coming up at Goodison Park this Saturday lunchtime, it cannot come at a more welcoming time.