How to Give Yourself a Rating (And Win Friends While Doing It)

When you’re new anywhere and you’re interested in being liked, it’s usually a good idea to hew to the party line, make yourself look humble, and generally not rock the boat. In football, this is a pretty good way of winning over fans. It can become something of a burden on teams that fan favorites are sometimes not anywhere near the best players on their team yet no one will stand for them not being picked (stand right on up, Steve Gerrard). To become a fan favorite, you often have to stress how hard you’re working and how you’ve got so much more to give to the squad. You do have to perform sometimes, but whenever you have a bad game (or string of games), coming out and saying “I have to play harder” is pretty much the best thing you can do.

Alexis Sanchez graded himself in a press conference recently as 5 out of 10. Most cules probably nodded so hard they gave themselves whiplash. And now they’re likely to be less harsh on him. So, good job, Alexis, you’ve given yourself a little cushion in your upcoming couple of performances. Yet, has he also been entirely truthful? He’s not the goalscoring machine some would like him to be (15 goals in 47 competitive matches), but he was never a goalscoring machine: with Udinese he scored 21 in 112 matches; with River Plate, 4 in 31; with Colo-Colo, 9 in 48; and with Cobreloa, 12 in 50. Technically he’s scoring more often than he has at any other time in his career; in fact, he’s scoring at a higher rate than Pedro has scored throughout his Barcelona career. And since Alexis arrived at FCB, Pedro’s performances have suffered a rather steep decline: 15 goals in 56 appearances.

Goals are, of course, not the only way to define players, but it goes a long ways when you finish passed Iker Casillas from what felt live like infinity far away to even up a clasico. Speed, precision, and technique are the hallmarks of Alexis’ game. He’s not overly fancy with his dribbling, preferring to beat people the simple way (by making the earlier run for the pace into space), but he’s no dud on the ball either. Yet the Barça system isn’t designed for him to speed to the corner on a diagonal run and then flip in a cross, so he’s had to relearn the timing and angles of his runs. And he’s done that.

Against Spartak Moscow, Alexis injected spacing, width, and workrate into the front third. His murderous tempo allowed Tello more freedom on the left while also allowing multi-pronged attacks through the middle. Still, he’s fallen over easily a few times and received a bit of stick for that from around the world. He’s missed some opportunities and failed to communicate with some of his teammates. But 5 out of 10? If 10 is Messi and 0 is Hleb, then sure, but direct comparisons to players playing in different positions are hard (can you compare QBs with WRs in the NFL?) and who wouldn’t want to be a 5 on that scale anyway?

Alexis is often talking with teammates about where to go, what to do, which is a good sign. It suggests that both he and his teammates are invested in his contributions to the team. I would rate him higher than 5, but then again, each performance demands something a little different out of him based on his alignment. He’s better as the point forward, causing havoc, but he’s learning to be the wing forward, dragging defenders out of the way.

Whatever he’s done incorrectly, I think he’s made up for it with work rate and footballing intelligence. And also unlike Hleb, who didn’t even bother learning the language, at least Alexis has picked up pretty good Spanish. Did you hear his accent? It’s pretty good!

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. garry
    September 26, 2012

    “….at least Alexis has picked up pretty good Spanish.”

    Err….i think u meant Catalan…he’s from Chile…They speak Spanish there.

  2. September 26, 2012

    I think he has rated himself pretty fairly. Instead of looking at his scoring chances, I look at what he has done with the chances he has gotten. And he needs to work on his finishing. He’s also more tentative/deferential than he was at Udinese, to his (and the club’s) detriment. You can also see that his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet. Not even close.

  3. G0gah
    September 26, 2012

    I think Alexis has given himself a spot on rating. We’ve seen glimpses of him being a 9, but it has pretty much averaged to a 5. That said I think he can only go upwards from here, unlike a certain Cesc.
    To open another can of worms, Is this Botia dude so damn bad that we won’t reclaim him for a CB deficient team that has the likes of Fontas, Busquets and Song filling in for Center back? I actually liked his performances at Gijon under Preciado.
    And…If Neymar comes, I can totally see Barca roSelling Villa (the laporta purchase)

    • Jim
      September 26, 2012

      Why do you think his trajectory is likely to be better than Cesc? We’ve seen what Cesc can do playing well in a Barca side in terms of goals. Can’t think of a similar vein of form from Alexis. Not to say he can’t do it but ATM I’m more optimistic about Fabregas. He was unlucky not to score in my opinion, denied by probably the best save of the night.

      I’m also not convinced by tales of Alexis’ pace. Two moments stand out for me in the recent game. The first was on offense where despite a decent through ball he couldn’t get that yard in front of the defender. The other was the chase back into his own penalty area in the first half where as far as I know he still hasn’t caught the attacker. I was hoping this year would be his breakout one but signs just aren’t good so far.

    • G6O
      September 27, 2012

      Villa was never going to be in the club for very long – he was almost 29 when we bought him. That was an Henry-type transfer – we buy an established player, give him a 3 or 4-year contract and after that we let him go.

  4. icemel
    September 26, 2012

    “nodded so hard they gave themselves whiplash.”
    ROFAGMW! ….(and giving myself whiplash)

    As long as he stays on his feet and shows the fight that got him signed here in the first place I don’t care what his goal ratio is, the team will benefit.

    Actually I’ll rephrase that: As long as he pops back up on his feet ala Messi I’ll be happy. Cause I admit he does get pushed around a lot. Maybe he needs to start sparring with Puyol after practice, to build some steel. I’m sure Carles has an extra morning-star or mace in his locker he can loan to the little dude.

  5. Manish
    September 26, 2012

    Needs to stop hugging the sidelines always, make more direct attacks.. and stop his play acting.. I prefer Pedro.. but I hope Sanchez can move from a 5 to an 8…

  6. September 26, 2012

    Poor 95%. Homie don’t get no love. (Sanchez does 95% of the move right, then misses that last 5%).

  7. swamidigital
    September 26, 2012

    I’d rate him a 5 only relative to the talent ceiling he has shown. He has played well, but he has shown flashes of an amazing combination of workrate, skills and finishing. His workrate and skills are consistent, his finishing is not yet there, and his instinct to know when to be selfish and take things himself is not there yet. Potentially he really has the total package to play on the wing for Barca. He will start putting it all together very soon, imo, but he is quite good.

  8. I have always said that the price at which he was signed is going to come back and haunt him. There is no doubt that his work rate and movement is excellent(except the diving, if you wanna do it then perfect that), but a forward will be always judged by the number of goals he scored not on anything else. Things looks ok for now but if the team goes through a bad patch, everyone will go after him.

    There is something strange with his technique and I believe that is the major reason why he is struggling in finishing. His first touch is quite worrying. Usually people say that a poor first touch is the one which takes the ball away from your body. In Alexis case it’s the other way around, his first touch especially in the box always take the ball to close to the body, which requires him to take another touch to free himself. To make matters worse it happens with inch-perfect through ball threaded by our midfield maestros. It’s strange!

  9. Dani_el
    September 27, 2012

    “….at least Alexis has picked up pretty good Spanish.”
    A good joke I might add. Chilean accent is one of the most difficult to understand. Not only in Spain, in South America as well. Hopefully now his teammates understand him better (Pique told the press a while ago that it was impossible to understand what Alexis said :D)

  10. nia
    September 27, 2012

    OT: just read that Pedro’s GF is also pregnant and is expecting by the end of the year. HOLY BATMAN!!! The boys are sure busy at the Camp Nou. No wonder Pedro has been playing out of his boots. Can’t contain his happyness. Congrats.

    • BarcaOwl
      September 27, 2012

      There has to be something in the water after all. 😛

    • nzm
      September 27, 2012

      Must have been taken early last season – there’s a CdR and a CWC missing. 😀

      Put his World Cup and Euro Cups in there and it’s not a bad haul! 😆

      For a mid-fielder/forward, Xavi must be THE most unawarded player ever, in terms of the topmost individual accolades in the world.

  11. September 27, 2012

    Alexis have had good days, eligible for 8’s, however that has happened only very rarely. For the price we paid, his 5 is quite disappointing.

    What makes me really disappointed is that there were many occassions when he could have carried on, but decided to go down. His one on one’s and pace, some skills on which he was highly rated, we haven’t got the benefits of them yet. Just hoping, he will improve and get more consistent.

  12. nzm
    September 27, 2012

    It’s difficult to really grade Alexis right now, given that he really didn’t get a full first season with all his injuries.

    I think that he’ll be given this year to prove his worth, but if he doesn’t perform, the knives will come out. In some ways his situation is very similar to Cesc’s in that he’s learning, and having to fit into, a different way of playing.

    I made this comment under one of the recent posts:
    The strength of Alexis comes in fast moving plays where he gets the ball and drives for the goal. If you watch his goals, most of them have been scored from open play where he gets the ball and runs with it. Without researching, his goals during the Granada match at Camp Nou last season, the CL away Leverkusen game and the away Madrid game come to mind as examples.

    We’re not seeing a lot of that type of play with the team right now, so Alexis isn’t being played to his strengths. He’s having to adjust to playing in traffic much higher up the pitch and to short passing. His diving is out of frustration, I feel – he’s trying to contribute in some way but it’s the wrong way. 😉

    A couple of things that I do like about Alexis:
    ~ his movement off the ball – when he’s paired with Pedro or Villa doing the same, they can take a lot of heat off the play-makers and ball carriers.

    ~ he also looks up before making his crosses into the box – that’s how he found Messi for his header in the Spartak game. Of course, the one time that he doesn’t look up during the recent Granada game, Messi pings him for it!

    I’ve watched Alexis’ stance when he’s playing in tiki-taka situations and he’s very bent at the knees – kind of like a static boxer stance without the skipping movements. It gives him a low center of gravity, but not the movement that he requires with the ball on the pitch because it’s hard to make a quick decisive move, (as well as control the ball), when both knees are so bent. By the time he straightens up to play the ball, the element of surprise is gone and he loses momentum. It’s one extra step in his action, and the defenders use the time that his extra step takes to make their counter move. Someone should tell him to straighten up, stand taller and shift his weight away from his legs.

    In boxing the legs are the balance platform while the arms do the damage. In football, the legs do the work while the upper body positioning provides the balance, to some degree.

    Watch how much upper movement Messi has – when he drops a shoulder, look out! Villa too.

    Tello has a little bit of it as well, and with work he will become more dynamic. Pedro’s ice-skating windmill actions are how he keeps his balance!

    Cuenca needs to beef up (in particular) his upper body to get that balance into his game so that his positioning doesn’t allow him to be stripped of the ball so easily.

    • mom4
      September 27, 2012

      “A couple of things that I do like about Alexis:”
      Don’t forget that we all decided last game post that he has better legs, face, and abs than the sad one. 😎

      • nzm
        September 27, 2012

        Ok – there may be more than 2, but I kept the fangirl elements out of my comment! 😀

  13. mom4
    September 27, 2012

    I find this so cool. Espicially about Iniesta (never too late/ too old —can teach old dog new tricks):

    Three first team players are studying at a university: Iniesta, Montoya (both sports sciences), and Muniesa (business administration) [ser]

    And the kids:

    University students B-team: Ilie (business adm.), Espinosa (teacher), Quintilla (sports sciences), Gomez and Planas (both psychology) [ser]

  14. September 27, 2012

    Sanchez is a work in progress, and will be for a while.

    He came to a club that was playing one way, and was adjusting to that. Now it is different, and Messi is a LOT more dominanat than he was when Sanchez came. nzm makes some excellent points about the way Sanchez plays, without getting into technique. Was Guardiola planning a more slashing, counterattacking style? Good question.

    But at present, as nzm notes, our more deliberate style diesn’t play to Sanchez’s strengths. To boot, he had a lot morr freedom of movement at Udinese. Now he does his thing, but that No. 10 is already there. So now what? He is still figuring all that out.

    His work rate is phenomenal. He was the right back, breaking up a Granada attack. For the observation above that belies his pace, there are plenty of other examples that argue in favor of his pace.

    Patience, cules. We still won’t know what we have until next season. That’s right. Not this season. He’s young, don’t forget. He’s also a brilliant player who is aleady an asset to this club. Think of the matches he has influenced. He will improve. Bit as with Henry, it’s asmuch a matter of teammates learning to play with HIM, as much as him learning to fit in with those teammates.

    • K_legit in Oz
      September 27, 2012

      Abidal’s a fucking beast!

    • nzm
      September 27, 2012

      I’m already buying my supply of tissues for the tears that I’ll shed when that man runs onto the pitch again. It will be an awesome, awesome moment.

      • mom4
        September 27, 2012

        The heck with tissues. I think I’ll need valium. At least for the times that anyone gets close enough to foul him…or I think he’s over-exerting himself…or anytime anything comes in contact with his upper right abdominal region!

    • nzm
      September 27, 2012

      There’s gold in some of those informed comments under the Guardian piece.

      In particular, “catas” has all the good figures and reasoning for Catalunya’s situation. If the region wasn’t contributing to Madrid and the rest of Spain, the situation in Catalunya would be, financially at least, better than it is now.

      That’s a point that many don’t take into consideration. All they hear is that Catalunya is in debt. They don’t take the time to work out how it got the debt, and it’s not by over-spending.

      Catalans are very frugal people, except for exceptions such as Laporta if you can believe what’s been said about him! 😀 They like to live and celebrate, but they do watch their money.

  15. September 27, 2012

    Oh, someone raised the question about our alleged interest in MHSC defender Yanga-Mbiwa, and what I thought about.

    Dude’s a badass. Strong, fast, solid technique. But he also has a temper, and gets cards. I don’t think that he has the skill set (yet) to walk right into the first team. Josep and I had an interesting discussion on Twitter when I suggested that we might sign him for B at first, like Kiko Femenia, with a guaranteed promotion, etc. Josep thinks I’m nuts in that dude is coming from the champion of France, and why in the hell would he sign for our B team, even with guaranteed promotion.

    I could see his point.

    At any rate, the physical skills are there. He reminds me a lot of a raw Abidal. He’s 6-foot+, and runs like a gazelle. He’s 23, and has dual citizenship but plays for France, so the ACN wouldn’t be a concern. I still think he’s a year or two from being ready, but his contract is up in 2013, which means if he’s going somewhere, it’s going to be this summer. And lot of clubs are watching him.

    • Blau-Grenade
      September 27, 2012

      Just watching a couple of YouTube video’s of him. He looks really good. Fantastic on the ball with both feet, great interceptions and winner of the ball in the air. Pinpoint long range and short range passing. Great header of the ball. He would be a great addition to the middle of the defense.

      • September 27, 2012

        Just remember that YouTube videos can make anyone seem like the Second coming. I’ve had the chance to watch quite a few MHSC matches on the telly, now that they’re all good and stuff. He isn’t quite there yet. I’d even love for us to sign him, then loan him to Montpellier for a season (sorry, MHSC=Montpellier-Herault Sports Club).

        • Lev
          September 27, 2012

          “Just remember that YouTube videos can make anyone seem like the Second coming”

          Which is a nice way of bringing an off topic subject (Yanga Mbwinga) back on (Alexis) lol.

          Waaaay OFF TOPIC:

          FA banned Terry for 4 matches after calling Ferdinand a “f*cking black c*nt”.

          This comes after banning Suarez 8 matches for calling Evra “negro” (in Spanish, not in English)…

          It seems that the most racist thing about the whole affair is the FA deciding to hand out half the punishment for twice the crime to, that’s right, the English player!

        • Blau-Grenade
          September 27, 2012

          I see what you mean. That would be awesome as well.

  16. Messiah10
    September 27, 2012

    For me, Sanchez’s work rate is the best in the team. He tracks back at an unbelievable rate throughout the entire match minutes he gets. The one area I’d like to see him improve getting past players to the end line. He constantly receives the ball and dummies going there, but turns and passes back to the middle of the pitch or to the immediate player in the triangle behind him. Tello does it well and I’d like to see him do more of it, but Alexis needs to do it period. That’s how you start to beat parked buses. Have Messi, Villa, Pedro, Iniesta, etc. making runs that Alexis and Tello can either pass in front of goal or back to the 6 yard box or even further. I don’t get why we don’t do this? Alexis diving really turns me off of him. I haven’t been able to stomach it from last year. For me, he has to play 10X better to make up for his diving. He’s not physically weak. He’s a physical specimen. He has a good solid base and his upper body is quite strong, so there’s no excuse for his shenanigans. The legitimate calls he could get are going against him because of his reputation. It used to be the same for Busi unitl he cut out the anitcs. Hopefully, Alexis will learn from him or one of our captains will take him aside and explain how to play. I am shocked it hasn’t been done yet!

    • nzm
      September 27, 2012

      That passing back on the corner of the penalty box ticks me off. I hate it. Maxwell did it and everyone didn’t like it, but I now think that this is a trained movement.

      • Messiah10
        September 27, 2012

        Your right. It has to be because Dani does it too! What happened to his amazing runs to the end line and perfect balls to Messi in the middle to volley home? 08/09 and 10/11 he was one of the best players in the world and definitely in discussion of best right backs. I can’t say that now because his most important weaspon and understanding with Messi has been stopped for whatever reason. It’s most probably tactical, but we can always revert back to the basics of success. Teams are now evolving to stop our 11/12 and 12/13 tactics.

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