Alexis puts himself in the shop window with best performance of the season

Last night Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 3-2, a close game that was decided by two moments of brilliance by Alexis Sanchez. But more than just the two goals that he scored, from the very first whistle, Alexis put in a scintillating performance on Arsenal’s left flank. How so?

He took a season high 101 touches – more than any player on the pitch and the first time as an Arsenal player he’s demanded the ball that often. Even in his other man of the match performance this season against Everton he only had 77 touches.

Of those touches, he attempted 11 dribbles, 8 more than his season average. He completed 82% of his passes, 10 points higher than his season average. He attempted 61 passes, 1/3 more than his season average of 41. And he completed 50 passes: where he normally completes just 30/40 passes, he went 50/61.

It wasn’t just passing the ball around, he also shared the ball. He was only credited with one key pass, but he created three big chances by my reckoning – two for Ozil (one Ozil passed to noone and the other he shot into the keeper), and one delicious cross in to a dangerous area that Bellerin failed to control. With better finishers, he could have had a hat-trick of assists to go with his two goals.

And his goals as well were unusual. This season Alexis has mostly settled for mopey shots from outside the 18 yard box – taking a career high 1.8 per game and for the first time in his career taking more shots outside the box than inside. But yesterday he was found by a brilliant ball from Wilshere, who looked up somewhat stunned to see an Arsenal player running in behind the defense, and probably even more shocked that it was Alexis. Wilshere picked out a pass which Alexis perfectly controlled and coolly slotted home for the goal.

And Alexis even chipped in on defense. He tracked back to help Kolasinac out with 1/3 tackles and (more importantly) 3 interceptions. Alexis has only made 6 interceptions this entire season, three of them last night. I don’t have to tell you that his interception rate is the lowest of his time at Arsenal, nearly 1/3 of the number he got in his first season when his all action displays endeared him to some supporters.

Running off the ball, starting and finishing fast breaks, pouncing on loose balls,  picking out deadly crosses to his teammates, carving open the defense with his dribbles, making himself available for passes, tracking back to help out his fullback, and pressing the opposition in defense. This was the Alexis Sanchez that we love. This was also the Alexis Sanchez that hasn’t shown up at Arsenal for nearly a year and a half.

Alexis Sanchez is out of contract this summer and starting on Monday is free to sign a pre-agreement with a foreign club. Wenger forced Alexis to stay at Arsenal this summer – denying him a move to Man City in the hopes that keeping Alexis would “pay off” in the form of a Champions League berth. The dangers of foolishly keeping Alexis became abundantly clear last night.

The math for that decision was always wrong. Keeping a player who City offered to buy for £50m made no sense. Arsenal were never going to touch Man City for the Premier League title this season. If you looked at the underlying stats from last season, you could see that it was actually City’s defense which were going to carry them easily to the title. Alexis wasn’t going to be the final piece in their title push and they have proven that even without Alexis they are the best football team that England has ever seen.*

Wenger pulling the rug out from under that deal at the last minute because he couldn’t persuade Lemar to join Arsenal will go down as one of the worst decisions of his career. Not only are Arsenal out £50m but Alexis hasn’t been giving his best as Arsene Wenger suggested he would. And it looks like Arsenal are going to struggle to finish top four, which would be something of a consolation prize.

According to his WhoScored rating, this is Alexis’ 2nd worst season as a professional footballer. And you just have to watch him play to see that he’s not into it, that he’s going through the motions. Though even an Alexis going through the motions is a pretty damn good player, 14th best in the League (he was 2nd behind Hazard last season).

But I wonder if last night was his farewell to Arsenal. He was given a few days off around the holidays and instead of going home to Chile, he met his family in Paris, where one of the richest clubs in the world and one of his suitors happen to be based. Meaning that Paris Saint Germain are probably ready to sign a pre-deal with him. Maybe even as soon as Monday. And last night he showed us why he’s wanted by nearly every big club in the world; he can create and finish, he can play hard for his team, he can be a demon on the pitch.

I should be angry but I’ve seen this movie before: Arsenal land a world class player, Arsenal fail to win anything meaningful with that player because the club refuses to build a complete team, that player leaves Arsenal, and goes on to win the League. I’ve seen this movie so many times that I could write the script for the next one: Arsenal episode IV – A New Hope.

Qq

*They are better than the Invincibles, even if they don’t go undefeated.

35 comments

  1. I don’t answer to this post, but in the latter, who you wrote for Arseblog yesterday. Your stat predictions for the game against Crystal Pallas were “this match almost certainly a draw with the slight edge to Palace. Prediction: 1-1, leaning toward 2-1 for Palace”.
    Your stat case were right “If we throw out the Everton match”. But why we throw out the Everton match and no the Liverpool game in August? If you choose the games, your predictions would be 3-1 for Arsenal, with the slight edge to 3-2. With or without Alexis.
    Before thirty years, the manager of greek national basketball team said, that the (not at full) statistic elements is the scientiefic way telling lies

    1. I took the Everton match out because it was such a massive statistical outlier. That match was the lie. And to be fair to my preview, you have to admit that 1) the match was closer than it looked and 2) Palace, when they remembered that they could play, outplayed Arsenal. I’m still confident in my model but I always re-evaluate based on data available.

      Thanks!

      1. What does it *mean* for an inconsistent team to have a statistical outlier?

        As you wrote, Alexis’ game last night was a stastical outlier to the rest of his season and this season is a statistical outlier to his career.

        Would you throw put this game in predicting what he will do next week or would you throw out most of the season?

  2. In all fairness to Arsene I don’t think he ever thought he was going to challenge for the title with, or without Alexis.
    I think the math was always getting to the top four , which is something of a deal make or brake for Arsene’s future, if he even has one still at Arsenal.
    Let’s face it, if he can’t crack the top four anymore ( his own minimal requirement), then what’s the point really?

    Agree that City play better football than the invincebles but you’re going to get a lot of pushback from Arsenal fans due to their spending.

    It is going to be one of those arguments no one ever wins.
    Like with Pep and his “greatness “.

    ” If only Pep hadn’t gone to one of the two biggest spending clubs in the PL but did what he’s doing now, then , yea, I would’ve gone gaga over him”

    As if , if Pep had gone to Chelsea for example, the same people wouldn’t have then find a whole bunch of excuses to dismiss him based on Chelsea’s previous years’ spend , player loans system, previous title winning achievements and so on.

    1. Happy new year, Tom. Nuance over hype every time. Caveats around Pep’s achievements are wholly justified. Here’s to getting over them in 2018 😉

      This isn’t black and white… Pep’s brilliance, his operating theatres and unprecedented spending ability are all realities, and you can’t argue one away because it’s an inconvenient fact. And no, Wenger and Fergie never had unlimited spending power.

      We disagree, and think that the other variables besides has obvious brilliance have some weight. That’s all.

      1. And to you too Claude.
        Nothing to get over much, really.
        I’m not rooting for Pep or City one way or another and I do recognize nuances when I see them.

        I also recognize bias or inconsistencies when I see them.

        Jupp Heynckes spent more in his two years leading up to his treble with Bayern than Pep in the next three, and not a single person called him a check book manager or even mentioned his spending.
        Coincidence? Maybe.

        1. Claude’s right in the above, and Tom “I’m not rooting for Pep” is very obviously rooting for Pep, which is wholly his prerogative (if a little weird when done repeatedly on an Arsenal blog). The rest of us (that Tom is actually arguing with on here, as opposed to the thousands of faceless wackos on Twitter) also happen to think Pep’s grand. Let’s move on, shall we?

          1. Attempt at reading my mind there, PFO ?
            I root in equal measure for every club that plays attacking , entertaining football, except when they play Arsenal.

            As for mine arguing ” repeatedly ” on this subject on an Arsenal blog that you find so weird. Tim sets the topic and the subject of conversation in his posts and I just throw in my two cents worth.
            It’s really that simple.
            Just because you and Claude disagree with my opinion , that doesn’t necessarily make you right.

            Funny you never complain about non Arsenal subjects often discussed at nauseam which we agree on , like Mourinho is a douche bag for example.

            However, I do agree we should move on, it’s getting quite repetitive.

          2. I wasn’t complaining about you talking about Pep. I said I thought it was weird how much you’ve been singing his praises on here and fighting against (largely imaginary, on here at least) foes who don’t appreciate him enough for your liking, simply because some of us have dared to suggest the money/strength of the clubs he’s managed is a factor in his success. I literally meant that: I think it’s weird. I think it’s weird to be so fixated on the topic, especially since it’s non-Arsenal related (admittedly, we’re all a bit weird on here for obsessing over discussing a football club like this).

            I find it tedious and want to move on NOT because I disagree with you, but precisely because I feel I DON’T really disagree with you, but YOU think I (and others, like Claude) disagree with you. I think I basically agree with you (Pep’s not a “cheque book manager” (whatever that even means), etc, etc). I just want to add a little nuance: I’d prefer him to have gone to a “big” club that wasn’t either one with unlimited resources (e.g. City/PSG, Chelsea perhaps to a lesser extent) or one that was ALREADY overwhelmingly (perhaps along with one other club) the dominant force in their domestic league before he arrived (e.g. Bayern in Germany, Celtic/Rangers in Scotland, Madrid/Barca in La Liga). I want this for my own, footballing-loving reasons–basically because I think it would’ve been more interesting and more in the spirit of competition to see what he could do–not because I think he’s wrong to choose what he’s chosen or because I think it makes him a lesser manager.

            This apparently isn’t good enough for you. The caveat offends your sense of justice or something. Honestly, you’re obviously a perfectly clever person, so I don’t see why you refuse to accept this little bit of nuance. I’m sorry, but I find your stance quite bizarre.

            So I’d like to move on because we’ve been round and round in circles and it feels like nothing short of total, unyielding Pep-worship–sacrificing my first-born to him, maybe?–will satisfy you. Incidentally, this is why, without being a mind reader, I can declare you’re clearly rooting for Pep. Because actions speak louder than words: you are QUITE LITERALLY rooting for Pep in the comments section of every recent blog post (NB: at least in North America, cheering for someone counts as “rooting”, whether or not your psychological state involves positively desiring them to succeed (though the former is obviously pretty good evidence of the latter).)

            Anyway, as I’ve said over and over again, I like Pep, so go on, wax lyrical about his management all you want. From now on I’m just going to try to ignore the insinuation in your semi-weekly paeans to the great man that I and others somehow don’t love Pep sufficiently ardently.

        2. City spent far more before Pep and never played like this. Man U has spent as much as Pep and doesn’t play like this. It isn’t just about the money. The money helps make things easier as in “I want Walker” and they pay 50m for him. I’m sure he could do it with less, after all Mendy has been out for the entire season and Mendy is one of the guys that everyone says is the reason he’s a checkbook manager.

          1. Funny you should mention Walker as well , Tim.

            Pep wanted Dani Alves from Juve on a free and according to some reports almost completed his signing, only for Alves to change his mind because his partner preferred Paris to Manchester.

            Alves signed with PSG on July 12 and City agreed Walker deal with Levy two days later.

            Point being, Pep makes a list of names and gives it to Txiki Begiristain, his director of football, and in this particular instance a player on a free was top of the list.
            Perhaps this is the type of nuance Claude was talking about.

          2. Tom,
            What’s your point? That wanting to sign Dani Alves (an elite footballer if ever there was one, and someone he’s worked with before) somehow shows Pep isn’t a checkbook manager? Does Jose wanting (and getting) Ibra on a “free” mean he’s not a checkbook manager either?!?
            I agree (again!) that “checkbook manager” is a silly charge against Guardiola, but clearly he mainly works with elite players, has had the (considerable) financial resources to buy those sorts of players when he desires, and mentioning Alves doesn’t change that one bit. To suggest it does is just silly.

            A more pertinent example would be someone like Delph (not to mention bringing through good-but-not-great players like Pedro while at Barca). He evidently makes players he works with better, and that’s a very good reason to think he could go to a team like Spurs or Liverpool and make them champions. But, wouldn’t it be fun to actually see him try??

          3. PFO
            I hope you didn’t just compare signing of Zlatan by Mourinho to the attempted signing of Alves by Pep, because that my friend would truly be silly.

            A 36 year old broken down by a serious knee ligament injury Zlatan is a de facto No 5 United striker after Lukaku, Rashford, Martial , and Lingard , as his 187 total minutes played reflect quite succinctly.

            Meanwhile Alves is a starter for PSG and would’ve been the starting right back for City as well with probably the same 1800 minutes or more game time he has logged with the Parisians thus far.

            One represents a typical Mourinho check book style of management even if he came on a free, the other would’ve been a shrewd pick up and would’ve represented great value for the money.
            Had this happened, we still would’ve seen City running away with the title but on far less money spent.

            Take away the £50m spent on Walker , and as Tim rightly pointed out discount the £50 spent on Mendy who’s been pretty much out for the year , and all of a sudden we moght be talking about some £40m of fully utilized net spend for this season.

            Which is the point Tim was making .
            Guardiola could’ve done it on much less.

            As for the second issue, where you or anyone else thought Pep should’ve gone to prove his credentials. I’m glad he went to City.
            Call me petty, but seeing Mourinho squirming in front of cameras
            as he tries to explain why he’s getting his a$$ handed to him by a superior coach is priceless and alone worth the admission.

            So yes , you could say I root for Pep in that regard, but I assure you no more than I root for Klopp , or even Leicester City.
            Make of it what you will.
            Peace.

    2. You have a spectacular gift for misrepresenting someone else, and draping yourself in the flag of pure reason. A career in ‘journalism’ beckons.

  3. Mate, please do not forget the sequel to every movie. That’s the part where, as Mr Wenger says, every player that has left Arsenal has always always wanted to come back. It’s a strange one. Ultimately players play and people watch the sport for good football, a style a philosophy. When you see kids messing around playing football saying they are Messi, Ronaldo or Barcelona. They dont do impressions of them lifting the premier league/la liga or Champions league trophies. They try to immitate their tricks and flicks and style of play. Perhaps I am being too romantic/circumspect. All that matters is winning trophies at whatever cost.. isn’t it? If it costs £50 million/per full-back to win the league that’s what you do …even if you cant afford it… and jeopardises the futrue existence of the club. Winning trophies today is all that matters….but then all the players that leave today want to come back tomorrow…..

    1. Some of them do. When they return, not much has changed-Arsenal still not in the title race. That sequel sounds pretty boring. It would be much better if say, player leaves, returns, and then competes for the title.

    2. Well, that they want to return is just something completely unfasifiable that Wenger claims. What we know for sure: they want to leave in the first place. And it’s funny how your examples include Messi and CRonaldo, two of the most decorated players that have won nearly every title there is.

  4. That summer in which Arsene got only Petr Cech, and left 100m + in unspent transfer funds on the table would have to go down as one of the greatest missed opportunities of his career. That, I’d argue, is one of the biggest reasons that Alexis wants to be with better team. I don’t blame him. He also, I suspect, wants to play for a better coach, and this latter day Arsene Wenger isn’t it, sadly.

    There’s a report by David Hytner that the players confronted him over his attitude just before Christmas. That report hada number of verifiable inaccuracies (which I won’t bore you with here), but it seems cfredible nonetheless. If true, that could have been another reason for a more motivated display.

    1. There was another report by the Mirror floating around, while I don’t give much about The Mirror as a souorce it sounds plausible, that Alexis had already agreed on a contract in principle and flipped after the loss against Bayern.

  5. Well for you city is better but it’s debatable.from robetrt henry Dennis veira gilberto Ashley Lauren sol even Jens.can’t c man for man who I would substitute for.den defenders break legs there were rili rough styles of tackles n others.look at a whole set of factors and not jus yourr sentimnts

  6. Well for you city is better but it’s debatable.from robetrt henry Dennis veira gilberto Ashley Lauren sol even Jens.can’t c man for man who I would substitute for.den defenders break legs there were rili rough styles of tackles n others.look at a whole set of factors and not jus yourr sentimnts

  7. I wanted Arsenal to hold on to Alexis, and I was wrong about that. But we don’t know what else went on, so whatever. He is here and has been playing poorly. But maybe a year where he can help us sneak into the CL (or get us a few million in January) will be worth it while the likes of Iwobi and Nelson to develop.

    City better than the Invincibles? Hmmm.. As a squad certainly, because the game has moved on. Maybe even in terms of dominance in the games. But it’s still half the season to go. We’ll see.

  8. Considering Arsenal are in a dog fight for the top four , selling him now would be a mistake unless we can get around £40m for him.

    Next seasons CL participation through group stages and into the last 16 alone should be worth around £30m , plus the extra revenue for each place in the league at £ 1.9 m .
    Also , being in the CL obviously makes Arsenal a far more attractive destination for future players acquisitions.
    I’ve criticized Wenger for many things and perhaps you’ll find it refreshing, but his handling of Alexis transfer isn’t one of those things.

  9. How many airplanes do you think would be circling if we sold Alexis early, and tried to replace (oh, we’re a selling club) or worse, if we sold last day without replacement (no ambition)? Well you won’t see me lauding the overall management of the team these last several years, we have a toxic section of our fan base who make it difficult. Truely, Arsenal were fucked if we did, fucked if we don’t.

  10. Tim,
    The inconvenient truth is $h*tTy spent, Bayern spent, and Barcelona spent. His rosters were already loaded to the hilt with world class talent everywhere he went. All he does is make a few adjustments, spends a bit more and bam, best team in their respective league, with Maschereno, Silva, Messi, Nuer…..The list goes on and on. Said it before and will say it again, go to Swansea, Championship side, lower tier German, Italian, or Spanish side. That is what I thought, he only builds with the best toys money can buy, nor he has not built a Futbol Club by any standard or definition. F him…..

      1. You mean not unlike a young french manager who inherited a squad with back to back title and cup winners, that just brought in Dennis Bergkamp for him and got him the french talent he wanted?

  11. I didn’t think Palace played well. I thought their midfield was slow and passive and Chambers kept the lid on their star child much more than people might have thought he could. They had nothing coming forward from the fullback position and Benteke was rank awful trying to lead the line. You could see why they are in the relegation places despite their “big name” players. Arsenal tore them apart often enough in the first half and if only Ozil could finish more consistently it would’ve been 2-0.

    The stats on Alexis that you quote are eye opening.

    I suppose the chief question is, are Arsenal better off with Alexis playing at 75% as your stats suggest he has (and disaffecting the team, of reports are to be believed) or with someone like Welbeck, Iwobi or Walcott playing in his position instead? With hindsight being 20/20, the latter scenario seems more palatable, but if Sanchez rips off a series of games like he just played, or scores a crucial goal in the cup final, then Wenger may yet be vindicated.

  12. Who are these people wanting Mourinho to go away and disappear from club football forever?
    He’s the last refuge of every disillusioned Arsenal fan and a ” git “that keeps on giving .

    Blaming his failures on lack of spending, his players , and referees( who are top referees except when they work his games).
    I hope he stays in the game for a long time.

    Kudos to Craig Pawson for being consistent calling his hand balls.
    If Koscielny’s goal that he scored against Burnley in October 2016 wasn’t a hand ball , then neither was Yoshida’s.

  13. This team is better than the Invincibles, who drew 12 games and were meh in Europe. We should stop seeing the Invincibles as the best PL team ever, but one that achieved something that has never been done before or since. A Mourinho wet dream, if you will, which is probably why he hates Wenger so much.

    1. The knockout stage of the Champions League hasn’t started yet. And we’re halfway through the season. Calm down, everybody.

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