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Alexis Sanchez: The Jury Is Still Out

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Yes, unlike most of you here, I refuse to throw him to the sharks just yet. The young Chilean (he is just 23 years old) has taken a few big steps in recent years as far as his career is concerned. From South America to Udinese, a team known to buy young players cheap and sell them after a good season or two, Alexis found his way to Barcelona competing for a spot against players that were either more experienced or products of La Masia.

I think it is important that fans realize that Alexis was not bought with the intention of getting immediate results but a buy for the future, if that were not the case, we could have bought any one of hundred wingers in and around Europe that had experience in a big league and was a proven goalscorer.

Let's look at some of his characteristics.

Alexis is extremely fast. Fast enough to beat pretty much every defender out there on sheer pace when given the chance.

Technically he's very good. His ability to keep possession could improve and that is one of the aspects i expect him to improve on this season.

The Chilean can be played anywhere up front. Unlike our other forwards. David Villa likes to move centrally from the left and has a similar role in the National team. Pedro Rodriguez is a winger and isn't suited to play a central role. In times when the coach wants to play Lionel Messi right behind a true no. "9", Alexis gives Barcelona that option. In fact as a no. 9 his responsibilities are not to score or assist (at least those aren't his main priorities).

As a center forward, Alexis shows an aspect of his game that is hidden when he plays on either wing. The Chilean has excellent understanding of space and when and how to make runs which in turn forces opposing defenders to mark him. Of course, the perfect example was against Real Madrid last season in the Bernabeu, where his runs allowed Messi space to work his magic without having to beat 4 defenders every time he received the ball.

The bad side of his game is his tendency to hit the ground way too often for comfort. Read that again. I am not calling it a dive but even when the contact doesn't seem serious, he looks for a foul. I am of the opinion that players generally don't need to do their opponents any favors by staying up when being fouled, but Alexis definitely has to remove that from his game. Like Messi and Iniesta, referees give them the fouls they want (unless its a Clasico when Madrid are given too much leeway) because of their reputations. Neither player hits the ground, both ride challenges with all their strength. A recent comparison comes to mind: Ashley Young. The Manchester United winger recently got a reputation of falling under minimal contact and one can be sure that Alex Ferguson sat him down and explained that it isn't a part of the game he was looking for.

Let's hope Tito will do the same for Sanchez. That said, after a year filled with muscular injuries, Alexis was still capable of showing his talent when he was fit. If he can manage to curtail the diving (for lack of a better word) and stay fit, I am confident he will have his breakout year this season at which point many of the members here will be praising him to the heavens. Like Alba, Song, I think it would be prudent on our part to be patient with the Chilean.

oh and to hobo barca. Sorry I disagree with most people about Afellay. Yes, he is a good player but obviously not good enough for Barca (at least as a starter) and it isn't even cause of lack of talent but just that he doesn't really suit any of the spots in midfield or as a forward cause our starters in those positions are better. He was just too slow on the ball and didn't pass it on quickly enough thus getting caught in possession or allowing the opponent to get back into position.

Finally, I don't know if anybody else has seen this during the matches but Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi seem to getting on very well. The results will without a doubt start showing on the pitch more often as well and that can never be a bad thing.

The future, as I see it, is a forward line of Alexis, Messi and Pedro (Villa will be 32 or 33 and seeing less time) before Barca buy a certain Brazilian in 2014. At that point, all three forwards will be at their peak and Neymar will be gradually introduced to the Barca way. As far as Alexis Sanchez is concerned, the jury is still out. The least we could all do is give him this season before passing judgement.

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