Over the last few weeks, as a variety of contract situations have combined with a run of disastrous form to create an almost unbearable bubble of self-destructive pressure in north London, Alexis Sanchez has received his fair share of criticism.
It’s certainly true that the Chile international has cut a frustrated figure amid Arsenal’s exit from the Premier League title race and embarrassing elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, leading some to question whether the attitudes of key players are more culpable than Arsene Wenger in determining where yet another Gunners season has gone so abruptly wrong.
It’s also certainly true – well, almost certainly – that Chelsea want to sign the contractually rebellious forward in the summer, once again leading to inquests into his loyalty to Arsenal on social media and subsequently, the aforementioned criticisms of his attitude.
But if Sanchez is thinking of leaving Arsenal this summer, if his head is already at Chelsea and if his attitude is causing problems for his team-mates, he showed absolutely no signs of that as Arsenal drew with Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
It was a weird game for Sanchez, one in which his team scored twice but he didn’t directly affect the scoreline, which is unusual for the often-talismanic South American. But it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying, with him laying on two scoring opportunities for his team-mates, having an effort at goal himself, running through the City defence like a hot knife through butter with seven successful dribbles and finishing up with the most touches of any Arsenal player.
But it was Sanchez’s defensive contributions that showed his head is still in the right place – at least when he puts on an Arsenal jersey and crosses that white line. He completed three tackles and five interceptions, ranking second on both counts throughout the Gunners starting XI, and also won two aerial duels (not shown above).
Although he struggled to influence the match going forward, Sanchez still made an important impact off the ball, trying to protect an Arsenal defence that let in two incredibly sloppy goals in the first half. That’s not only the sign of a quality player who has the ability to make a difference in unsuspecting ways, but also of a team player prepared to sacrifice his own starring role for the sake of a result – something you certainly can’t say about every member of Arsenal’s talented attack.