Alexis Sanchez has been linked with Juventus and Inter Milan after struggling to find form at Manchester United – but what’s gone wrong for the Chile international?
It’s been one of the great mysteries of the season: what has happened to Alexis Sanchez?
At Arsenal, he finished the 2016/17 season on 24 league goals, just five shy of Golden Boot winner Harry Kane, and won the Gunners’ Player of the Season award in recognition of his outstanding campaign.
- Sanchez attracts interest from Juventus & Inter Milan
- Insight: Who should Man Utd sign?
He then hit seven Premier League goals in 19 appearances at the start of the following season before, amid growing speculation over his expiring contract, Arsenal agreed an exchange deal with Manchester United for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January 2018.
But, as the graphic below shows, in the past season-and-a-half, Sanchez has struggled to reach the levels he achieved in London, only recording above-average performances in a United shirt against Huddersfield and Swansea, shortly after his move last year.
Indeed, his rapid decline in form, coupled with a string of injuries, resulted in Sanchez starting only 24 per cent of league games for United this term.
The 30-year-old has been sidelined through injury for 115 days this season, more than any other player at the club – suffering a recurring hamstring strain mid-season, either side of knee and groin injuries.
After United’s humiliating 2-0 defeat at home to Cardiff on the final day, Sanchez admitted: “I didn’t perform as much as I was expecting [this season] because of unpredictable injuries.”
But the Chilean has been below par when he has been fit, too.
The graphic below compares his final full campaign at Arsenal with this season. It reveals his goal ratio has plummeted seven-fold – having only scored once this term – while he has attempted around half as many shots and dribbles.
He has created more chances for team-mates at United, while the heatmaps reveal he has also tracked back more and held his wide position – whereas, at Arsenal, he would occasionally start up top or roam into central areas.
There is also evidence he has become more reluctant to pass forwards. The sonar graphics below reveal how he would typically pass forward to his inside right at Arsenal, but has more often than not shifted the ball sideways at United.
So, the data suggests a decline in goalscoring intent, with more rigid positioning down the left flank and a greater emphasis on creating chances for team-mates.
In addition, his bit-part inclusion under Jose Mourinho and recent injury struggles may have affected his confidence, resulting in a greater proportion of sideway passes – instead of searching for an option in front of him.
But the former Barcelona star has undoubted pedigree and would interest powerhouse clubs in Europe, such as Juventus – although potential suitors could be deterred by bumper salary demands – with his current contract set to run until 2022.
However, Sanchez has apologised for United’s failures this season and indicated he will give the club his full commitment and, perhaps, look to earn his starting berth under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“I apologise to the fans for not be able to achieve our goals. We are Manchester United. Players and Staff are questioning if we were doing the right thing and if we were giving our best for this football shirt.
“I’m certain that Manchester United one day will return to be the club, as it was in the old days with Mr. Alex Ferguson.”
If Sanchez does stay, or if his wage demands deter interest from elsewhere, Football Whispers have provided a list of alternative players with the most similar skillsets to Sanchez.
The graphic below shows how Manchester City duo Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling are among the best-performing players in this category.
However, a realistic target could be Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, who has been linked with numerous Premier League clubs, including United.
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