Quite how Alexis Sanchez merited a starting role against Celtic last night astounded those who have kept an eye on the Chilean winger’s recent form as his woeful run continued. He lasted 59 minutes, wasting two wonderful chances, before Vilanova hauled him off in place of David Villa.
In truth Villa contributed little to the dismal defeat in Glasgow last night but with six goals already this season, compared to just the single strike from Sanchez, he was surely discontent at facing another spell on the Barca bench. So why does Tito Vilanova persist with the inconsistent winger when many fringe players of similar ability include so many youngsters?
Truth is that Barcelona are determined to get their value for money as Sanchez moved for such a fee. At €26m, Sanchez has since failed to prove his worth as he continues to search for the sort of form that made his transfer figure appear a bargain. The longer he is on the pitch then the longer he has to impress and add goals and assists to his game.
Despite the theory, Sanchez didn’t enjoy the greatest of seasons last year. He managed 12 goals and just 6 assists in a Barcelona side fuelled by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets and spearheaded by Messi. Part of the reason Barca failed to win the title was their failure in front of goal when Messi wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet. To blame Alexis would be unfair – the defensive situation has been raging for some time at the Nou Camp and also contributed – but a lack of secondary striking options led to Barca’s demise last year.
Having failed to score more than 12 goals in a season in his career, Sanchez looks destined to continue his streak this year with a single goal in 9 games and none in the league. More importantly is his lack of assists; just the sole one against Osasuna in August. What Sanchez is currently bringing to the team is a mystery as Villa, Pedro and Tello wait impatiently on the sidelines.
His pace is renowned as he tortured full-backs whilst with Udinese before his transfer to Barca. Yet his constant knack of trying too much with the ball has frustrated both fans and team mates and is partly to blame for providing so few assists. Cristian Tello has far more pace than Sanchez and has given more to the team in the league this season. His double assist against Sociedad and goal versus Deportivo appeared to give Tello the edge over Sanchez but has failed to feature in the previous two games.
Tello’s inconsistency is often to blame for his omissions but his claims for a starting role have been largely ignored this year. In games where a goal is required, like Celtic, Sanchez has often proven he does not have the potential to change a game or rejuvenate the squad like Tello or David Villa.
Even Cesc Fabregas played as a winger for parts of last season and gave a good account of himself. His previous performances have been impressive and whilst he is not able to force Xavi, Iniesta or Busquets from the squad, he is capable of playing on the wing and giving more than Sanchez does.
In a squad that suffered with an over reliance on Messi last season, Barca seem to be pushing their luck with Sanchez. Far too often he has failed to live up to his billing and with options on the bench and in the academy, he could well be replaced with a more consistent signing come January (but not before a decent centre-back is bought!)
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