We are three games into the season and suprisingly, Alexis and Pedro have started every game. Messi is out with a muscle injury, O Ney is acclimatizing/gaining muscle/learning Català and Tello, well, Tello is being punished or something.
Assuming that La Pulga will soon be jumping around the skin of the defense and leaving goalkeepers with unscratchable itches… Assuming that Cesc is a false false nine who should be looked upon to relief Xavi and/or Iniesta in the midfield… Assuming that Neymar will indeed earn starting status – and judging by his last two 30-minute cameos the future sure looks promising… I guess we can safely assume the third attacker will be one of Lexusor Pedro.
Possessive of an impeccable attitude, Pedro has long been protected by the fans for having played two excellent seasons (’09/10 and 10/11) who are finally coming around to the idea that he has basically underperformed since then. Alexis’ solid first season was followed by a four month stretch of the Chilean missing every possible goal-scoring opportunity known to man. Some culés were calling for his head, to which others responded, “yeah, but he moves well and tracks back a lot.”
So how well does he move and how much does he track back? In this video of the game against Atletico de Madrid at the Calderon I have highlighted Lexus in yellow before the play develops.
He actually regained possession five times during the course of the game, which, for a forward, is a lot. He is consistently the most dynamic of all our attackers by offering himself to receive the ball or creating space for others to run into. He missed two chances, both blocked by an excellent Thibaut Courtois*
Alexis’s movement and defensive contributions are a constant and in this aspect he is already better than Pedro, who has often been lauded for the same attributes. Also in his advantage are his trickery and his phsyicality. While true that he regularly struggles to get past his man he still poses more threat on the ball than his Canarian counterpart and he definitely uses his body better. Scoring wise, both are coming off of the back of poor seasons and I am one of many who often critized Alexis’ wastefulness. With the opportunities he gets playing for this team, it is not unreasonable to expect fifteen goals.
However, form is temporary, class is permanent. Now that he is playing with more confidence we are starting to see the player many of us thought we had bought from Udinese, as he is finally adapting his firestarter playmaker role to life on the wings. He lacks the decisiveness of a superstar, but the aptitude of moving well and regaining possession, while basically being a pest for the opponents’ defense, could turn Alexis into an invaluable complementary player in a frontline shared with Messi and Neymar for years to come.
*One of the things I like about Sanchez is that the play never stops for him. When he loses the ball he immediately moves to get it back. Against Atletico when Thibaut stopped his first scoring attempt he recovers at once and passes it to Cesc, who should not have wasted any touches and shot it with his left. Alexis’s second chance is not in the video because his starting position is not on camera. A better finisher would have volleyed it.