Is it time for Alexis Sanchez to reinvent himself?
Alexis Sanchez scored the crucial winner in a remarkable comeback against Newcastle United after a spirited second half performance by Manchester United. When Newcastle netted the second, most would have thought that this was the final nail in the coffin for Jose Mourinho, with reports surfacing that the top brass at United are ready to show him the door.
However, Sanchez had other ideas as he headed home from Ashley Young’s cross to provide Jose a huge lifeline. Inspite of being the shortest in the box with five or six giants ready to pounce on the cross, Sanchez showed the grit, determination and the hunger to nod home his first of this season.
This was a huge goal for the Chilean as he has come in for a lot of flak from fans after a poor start to the season. Alexis has been underwhelming since his move from Arsenal as he has looked the shadow of the player who once lit up the Premier League with his exploits.
However, Sanchez still possesses some of the qualities that made him a star player at Arsenal. His impressive work rate coupled with his incessant pressing higher up the field makes him a valuable asset to any team.
However, his goals and assists column has dried up and he looks a long way from his best. So the question arises that what can be done to bring the old Sanchez back?
Alexis has generally lined up on the left wing for United, a position where he played a majority of his football for Arsenal. The Chilean is famed for cutting inside from the left wing and curling the ball into the net on his favoured right foot.
However, that is a sight rarely witnessed at United, as Sanchez has looked a bit one dimensional on the left as his natural tendency is to move inside and try to play a one-two with Romelu Lukaku rather than have a shot on goal. United also miss a player who can run to the touchline and whip in a cross.The attack has been predictable and easy to defend against on most occasions.
It also appears Sanchez is devoid of ideas and has been more selfless than most fans would want him too. However, Sanchez still remains one of our most lethal finishers alongside Anthony Martial. In a season where Romelu Lukaku has missed numerous gilt edged chances, the finishing ability of Sanchez has been sorely missed.
Thus the best option would be playing Sanchez centrally either as a number ten, or as a secondary striker. It has to be noted that his most profilic season for the Gunners came in 2016/17 when he played as a number nine, where he plundered 24 goals and notched ten assists.
However, shifting Sanchez centrally may mean Jose will have to change to a 4-4-2 formation with Paul Pogba playing a more defensive role. That is a conundrum in itself but United do not have any ball playing defenders at their disposal, and having Pogba play a bit deeper will help them to construct from the back and open defences that like to play a low block. Playing centrally Sanchez can conserve his energy and make those late runs in behind the defence, something that United lack right now.
If the Chilean moves to a central position, Mourinho can accommodate Martial who is a menace when played on the left. The Frenchman’s pace and dribbling makes him a nightmare for the opposition defenders.
The creative burden thus can be shared, and Sanchez can concentrate on scoring goals and being the difference maker. He can follow the path of United legend Cristiano Ronaldo who has transformed from a flying winger at United to a more poacher style goalscorer.
It is no secret that at 29, Sanchez cannot be expected to do certain things that he did two or three years ago. It is time Alexis redefines himself and focuses on being a goalscorer.
Sanchez needs to stick to central areas and use his work rate to press from the front and be a difference maker, rather than wandering all over the pitch. If the Chilean can make this transition, he could turn his United career around and be the marquee signing that most fans expected him to be.