There is something strange going on out there. People see the fact that Alexis Sanchez played 84 minutes of an absolutely vital match for Chile, that he scored two goals, that he won the game and ensured that Chile now have a chance to qualify for the World Cup, and they are assuming he is all healthy. Watching him play with a bandaged leg, however, and added to that, the fact that he was taken off at the 84th minute, are clear signs to me that Alexis Sanchez was far from full fitness. Prepare for him to be sitting on the sideline for a few matches.
It was one thing to worry about the fact that Alexis didn’t play in the previous match. This is a player who hasn’t missed a match for Chile since March 2015, and just two total matches since June 2014.
It was another thing to see him taken off early. I know many commentators, most of them Gooners, who saw him taken off in the 84th minute and remarked that he seemed to show no evidence of injury. But this is a player who has only been taken off early in games which are blowouts or games where the coach needs to rest him prior to the start of the real tournament. Alexis has played the full 90 minutes (or more) in 22 of the last 25 matches for Chile. He was taken off at half time in the 5-0 win over Bolivia in Copa America 2015. Then he was taken off in the 81st minute of the 1-0 loss to Mexico in the penultimate match leading up to Copa America 2016. And he was taken off in the 84th minute of a tight match against heated rivals Uruguay yesterday.
Alexis never rests. One day, scientists are going to study Alexis Sanchez and discover that he had a perpetual motion engine installed in his chest where his heart would normally be. Injured, healthy, 50%, 80%, there is no stopping Alexis from playing football. And not only no stopping him, but he almost never puts in a half performance. He’s that rare talent which grabs a team by the scruff of the next and drags it to the next level.
But he missed a match for Chile earlier this week, an important match that Chile needed to win in order to ensure their qualification to the World Cup. And he played just 84 minutes of this crucial match against Uruguay. He played with a bandaged leg. He scored twice. He dragged his team by the scruff of their necks and got them where they needed to be.
There is no questioning his commitment, but it’s clear that he is injured and thus the question isn’t whether he will return to Arsenal injured, but rather how injured?
I suspect he’s much more injured than he let on.