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Alexis Sanchez: Asset or Liability for Arsenal?

 

Brando

Like Brando in The Godfather, I am loathe to tell anyone outside the family  what I am thinking but given the current atmosphere of mischief and sensationalism surrounding Arsenal Football Club, needs must, especially when the usual subjects are avoiding the truth like a plague.

Alexis Sanchez is undoubtedly Arsenal’s most potent offensive player. If you tuned into the mainstream media, most Arsenal blogs and podcasts you would be struck by the tones of worship when they describe his performances. You would think he is irreplaceable.

But sporting history is replete with examples of great offensive players who, rather than being assets, are downright liabilities to the overall team. American professional sports, whether it be baseball, basketball or their gridiron football, has numerous examples of blockbuster trades to get rid players with gaudy offensive stats in return for  new talent with whom hopefully a more successful  future can be built.

One such trade that never took place was the legendary Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls who was the dominant worldwide sports marketing figure in towards the end the last century and into this millenium. This episode in the history of the Bulls has literally been airbrushed from history and is unknown to most Gen-Xers and Millenials.

In 1988 when Jordan was coming off of being the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and the league’s leading scorer during the 1987-1988 season, the Bulls were close to dealing him away for two high draft picks. I vaguely remember the story from my days as a basketball hound but had to dig deep in the internet to confirm.  According to this piece on “the-trades-that-didnt-happen” the Bulls were on the verge of being eliminated in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Detroit Pistons and the team had won just four total playoff games – and sported a 4-15 playoff record – in the first four seasons with Michael Jordan. There was a large dividing line among Bulls management that led to a theory that the team would

“never win a title because Jordan’s style of one-on-one play eliminated the other players as contributors.”

I am increasingly becoming like those skeptical members of the Bulls’ hierarchy when it comes to Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal. Having watched him very closely since he came to this club, while ecstatic about his unpredictability and the wonderful goals he has scored I have become increasingly alarmed at his negative impact on the team dynamic.

As some of us have highlighted, Wengerball depends on maintaining possession as the club progresses up the field seeking opportunities for vertical passes to get behind defenses and create scoring opportunities. Over the past 3 years the emphasis on possession has declined.  Arsenal is now the 3rd best possession team in the league behind City and Liverpool and the frequency of turnovers in midfield leading to dangerous counter attacks by opposing teams have left me with a bad state of heartburn and acid reflux.

Apart from @blackburngeorge and a few others this is a minority opinion among the denizens of this blog. Many regard his goals and the unpredictability he brings to the team as more important than his wastefulness in possession. As friends, who love the club, we never hesitate to disagree, respectfully.

Outside PA, in the mainstream media as well as most Arsenal bloggers and podcasters, there is virtual sycophancy when it comes to Alexis. It is literally taboo to criticize him. Like the political correctness crowd, they are the self-made guardians of what is acceptable discourse among Arsenal fans. Based on their recent publications,  evidently blaming the manager, for one bad year in 21, is more likely to generate clicks and satisfy the snarling, howling mob that needs a scapegoat for their disappointments.

Unlike my opinionated colleagues in the blogsphere, as is my wont, I decided to do some research and see how Alexis compares with the leading strikers from other clubs fighting for top-4 positions in the Premier League. As usual the stone-cold data has no agenda, creates no headlines and is oblivious to feelings and emotion (courtesy of Whoscored.com).

Sanchez Kane Costa Aguero Ibra Avg. Score
Apps 31(2) 25(1) 32 23(5) 27(1)
Mins  2,809  2,187  2,848  2,234 2,437 2,503
Goals 19 21 19 18 17 19
Assists 9 6 6 1 5 5
SpG 3.3 3.4 3.2 4.6 4.1 3.7
Drb 2.7 1.2 1.7 2.5 0.6 1.7
Fouled 1.7 1.6 2.6 1.1 0.7 1.5
Off 0.8 0.7 0.8 0.8 1.3 0.9
Disp 3.2 1.7 3.4 2.3 1.4 2.4
UnsTch 2.5 2.9 3.2 2.5 2 2.6
Key Passes 2.2 1.4 1.1 0.9 1.7 1.5
Avg Passes 43.5 19.6 29.5 25 37.3 31
PS% 73.4 72.7 74.7 82.2 73.6 75.3
Rating 7.7 7.56 7.44 7.25 7.41 7.47

Mins – Minutes played; Goals – Total goals; Assists -Total assists;  SpG – Shots per game; KeyP -Key passes per game; Drb – Dribbles per game; Fouled – Fouled per game; Off – Offsides per game; Disp – Dispossessed per game; UnsTch – Bad control per game; Avg Passes – Avg Passes per game; PS% – Passing success percentage          

Good Alexis

Given he is not dedicated center-forward like those in the peer-group, often playing wide left, his numbers are noteworthy:

  • Goals scored is right on the average, at 19.
  • Assists are 80% above the average and one-third higher than the next best, i.e. Kane and Costa.
  • Highest number of dribbles per game at 2.7 is arguably a positive especially for a wide forward.
  • Fouled at a higher than average per game although nowhere near Costa-levels.
  • Key passes are above average at 2.2 per game compared to an average of 1.46. Only Ibra comes remotely close at 1.7.

Bad Alexis

  • His passes per game widely exceed all his peers, 43.5 vs an average of 31. Only Ibrahimovich at 37.3 is remotely close. Seems his peers are less involved in the passing game and focused on being present in the box.
  • Passing percentage is below the average, 73.4 vs 75.3. Only Kane has worse passing percentage but he touches the ball on average over 50% less than Alexis.
  • Being dispossessed far higher than the average, 3.2 times per game vs 2.4. Only Costa is dispossessed at a higher rate at 3.4.

Having seen the evidence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how say you? Asset or liability?

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144 comments on “Alexis Sanchez: Asset or Liability for Arsenal?

  1. Shotts,
    If only they could express their expertise towards the team that can’t even beat Iceland or Costa Rica, their talents are being wasted upon the little but good ship Arsenal *wink wink wink*

    Liked by 2 people

  2. well spurs really laid down the title gauntlet to chelsea tonight. the hype is laughable,

    Liked by 2 people

  3. #PochOut

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Miguel Delaney‏Verified account @MiguelDelaney 28 Feb 2016

    Under Pochettino, people need to stop saying “Spursy”. Not relevant to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see sky are picking their stats to suite again apparently the spuds are top points scorers if you only count the last three seasons, ARSENAL by the way was the standard third , the point being missed was they could achieve that stat without collecting silverware an accusation levelled at us all the time oh the irony being missed by Jamie dickhead and that bloke who used to play up front for us and I used to love but disrespects the club far to much nowadays

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Sam‏ @samuelJayC 5m5 minutes ago

    Chelsea need 2 wins from final 4 fixtures to guarantee @premierleague title:

    Middlesbrough (h)
    West Brom (a)
    Watford (h)
    Sunderland (h)

    Like

  7. so by the time spurs play again, chelsea could have the title won, if cfc win their next two games, they would be 10pts clear of spurs, who would only have 3 games to play.

    if that does happen then spurs could very well throw in the towel, and end up 10pts or more behind cfc by end of the season, but you can be sure that they will not get the brickbats that afc took for finishing 2nd and 10pts behind the champs last season. No it has been deemed that spurs are great, have a great manager, a great team, and will have a great stadium, the fact that they have not won a trophy in 9 seasons, a league cup, 26 years since the won the fac, and 56 years since a league title.

    if arsenal win the fac, it will be the disaster of 3 cups in 4 years.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I thought the Irons soaked up a load of pressure, and did a lot of good defending– really should have had at least two more.
    COYG!

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  9. It appears that both Mr Conte and Mr Wegner will play the two worst performing strikers at every available opportunity. Can someone please explain why?

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  10. Yes Smallo42,
    Its to keep their sale value up for Summer.

    Like

  11. not the worst performing but players who lose the ball the most. The difference between the two strikers is the areas they lose the ball. Costa although an animal loses the ball in attacking areas with insurance polices behind him. Unfortunately for us Alexis loses the ball not only in attacking areas, which is forgiveable, but also in areas of the pitch which causes us severe problems. This is why I think his best position is out an out striker or in a two with Oli.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Only Spurs can Spurs up their last ever victory over Arsenal at WHL by losing the next match their first visit to the stadium they failed to snag, in the process evaporating their last hope of winning something, anything, since AW arrived at AFC

    I feel much better now.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. a_or_b: Notice Costa wins them a lots of free kicks in dangerous areas. That is only for the fouls the refs call btw. A lot of them go unpunished because of his rep as a diver and a prick. Got to admit he is an animal in the box.

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  14. I immediately thought Giroo there

    Shame on me

    Liked by 4 people

  15. On the days Diego can keep his behaviour under control he is a mighty beast Shotta – the nutcase is never lurking far away though. Defenders with a bit of guile go straight for his weak spot.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. How many esteemed blaggers and gallant podcastateers out there will comment upon the observation that when playing football on a bigger football pitch that Tottenham appear, as per the results, to not be as good a football team as their drooling fans (the plundits) have been insisting.

    For me that is the most remarkable occurance in tottenhams season. The lack of any real discussion upon their football (as opposed to saying that their fouls are not fouls heh).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I wonder how gazprom’s season would’ve progressed if Costa had picked up one of those three/four game bans earlier in the season?

    The thirty million pound striker rusting on the bench in his first season in the PL would not have been as effective imo.

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  18. Went over to the Guardian to read them dooming that the sky is falling in on Wenger and Ozil is useless, blah, blah. Interestingly enough out of the blue Amy Lawrence is pondering whether Ozil is the technical leader. Wtf. We long discussed the matter at PA and identified Santi as the Man. Clearly we at PA are months ahead of these so-called experts. Wonder when they will acknowledge that Alexis is both an asset and a liability.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. finsbury

    That is a very astute observation about pitch size. Never even thought of that, but maybe you’re on to something there. If true, would make playing at Wembley next season very interesting, unless they get to redraw the pitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Fins and Shard: Great observation about Spurs. Obviously easier to press on a smaller pitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Shard, it was definitely an isssue for AOC whose been enjoying the wide expanse of the Wembley or Arsenal (or even OT) turf this season (unless you’re a blogging and podcasting expert in which case you must have missed it!)*

    * hence there are valid critiques to be made on AFCs line ups on narrow pitches, on some occasions, the game at WHL was one. But you never hear it! The footy chat is drowned out by the gibberish pumped out by the blaggers in ever increasing volumes, and we expect no better from then idiotic football plunditry.

    Imagine watching a Test Match where the plundits don’t try to describe to their listeners and viewers the condition of the wicket, the weather, the outfield. Whether the pitch is suited to a fast bowler (Alexis or DW at CF) or a spinner (Giroud!), and which options the coach and captains might prioritise over the course of the context, as conditions naturally evolve as they do in any contest in any kind of competition.

    None of it! Instead you get the spectacle of adults spitting their dummies out over Giroud which given the context that he’s been Europe’s leading targetman of late, well, that kind of conduct is more then just stupid plunditry.

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  22. Fortunately we have PA where we can discuss the Football!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Story by Matt Hughes in today’s Times about Spurs reducing the size of the Wembley pitch – to “make the players feel more at home”. Also interested in enlarging the Wembley tunnel (?) presumably to accommodate Delle Ali’s growing ego

    Liked by 4 people

  24. Pooolis would redraw the Stoke pitch to make it even smaller when AFC would visit, I’m guessing he did the same thing this season too, one or two others as well.

    Maureen must be gutted that he can’t get away with such ‘tactics’ now that he’s at a big club.

    Like

  25. City is playing the possession football we used to play. Palace chasing shadows except for a brief period in the 1st half. 2nd goal should be enough for a win. Nice to watch.

    Like

  26. Fins/Andrew: Doesn’t the FA or TIFA have some rules about about minimum pitch size?
    (T as in Thieves)

    Like

  27. Silva is a quality player Shotts!
    Howver like the Arsenal not everyone is perfect. Even if they spend four times as much! City have been missing that Giroud option since they lost pre-recent injury Negredo & Dzeko (they needed the targetman option to win league titles in the modern game, not the same as 15 years ago)

    Arsenal City games have been the best football matches in the league for a while now though the upcoming fa cup final will hopefully prove to be and be allowed to be as compelling a contest and battle as the city Arsenal semi final.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Interestingly “useless” Clichy, according to Arsenal blaggers, is doing very well in City’s possession based system.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. “For international matches the field dimensions are more tightly constrained; the goal lines must be between 64 and 75 m (70 and 80 yd) long and the touch lines must be between 100 and 110 m (110 and 120 yd).[3] In March 2008 the IFAB attempted to standardise the size of the football pitch for international matches and set the official dimensions of a pitch to 105 m long by 68 m wide.[5] However, at a special meeting of the IFAB on 8 May 2008, it was ruled that this change would be put on hold pending a review and the proposed change has not been implemented.”

    So yes my favourite organisation in the world of football apparently tried to reduce the pitch size for internationals, which are more strictly enforced then for club football (bigger pitches). The Arsenal pitch complies with international standards as they wanted to allow the stadium to be used for international football.

    IFAB Shotts. They don’t appear to ever act in the interest of the sport, unless you’re a Tottenham fan. IBSF.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Only rubbish LBs are starting LBs during a club’s title winning season ha ha.

    Perhaps it was an expression of cognitive dissonance? To call Clichy rubbish and and not accept that Dean is a undeniable cheat *gollum gollum*?

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Variable pitch size I presume is yet another hangover from the days when football was governed by men with muttonchop whiskers and watch chains.

    No reason why every PL pitch not exactly the same size. They don’t have different sized goals or different sized centre circles – why should the length and witdth be different ?

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Watch and weep PA. Can anyone doubt who is the technical leader at AFC in 2016-17? (Thanks to Fins for the link.)

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Not that I have the slightest interest in where the Spuds play, or what problems their temporary sojourn at Wembley may cause them, but the pitch sizes are not always well known.

    The FA laws stipulate the maximum and minimum dimensions of the pitch, the penalty area and the size of the goals, with various recommendations for age related games, mini, youth, adult.

    There have been various articles written about this key area of football, so here is one.

    — ‘The length of a pitch must be between 100 yards (90m) and 130 yards (120m) and the width not less than 50 yards (45m) and not more than 100 yards (90m).

    And what about where most of the action happens – the penalty box?

    Also known as the 18-yard-box, with the smaller area – marked out inside it – called the six-yard-box, or goal area. (12 yards * 6 yards)

    And for all penalty takers – or GK’s – the most famous spot in football sits 12 yards (11m) from the goal, aka the penalty spot.

    Last, but not least, that wooden thing at each end of the pitch they call the goal.

    Think you know how big it is? It’s eight feet high (2.44m) and eight yards wide (7.32m)”

    The current FA recommended pitch size is 110 yards (91.45m) x 70 yards, (60m) and the recommended goalpost size: 8 (2.44m) x 24 feet (7.32m).

    Arsenal, Villa, Hull and Man City have the largest football pitches in the UK [105m * 68m]

    I think you are correct about the variable sizes of the pitch dimensions being somewhat historical, but stadia still vary greatly in size and that was more so back in your youth in the 1890’s.

    Liked by 3 people

  34. The last paragraph/comment above, was meant to be addressed to Sir Anicoll, but the rest of you could have guessed that! lol

    Like

  35. Watching Wasps v Sarries [Rugby Union – fighting for a home semi-final]

    Did I tell you Sarries are my Rugby team — and wearing red today. Yeah.Yeah. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  36. It was the double feint & stagger from Podolski that tricked the keeper. Trying to anticipate whether it was going to be der Hammer or either of St.Cazorla’s blessed feet to take that kick, not an easy task for the/any keeper.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. So right, A5 @2:07. I cannot for the life of me understand why the pitch size isn’t standard. Particularly within the same league. It’s always confused me.

    Like

  38. I cannot believe you have ever been confused, Alabama. lol

    In the UK the FA has authority over all the leagues and league clubs, including amateur and professional – and there are a lot of them — some of them are tiny clubs with tiny grounds.
    If they set a mandatory pitch size so that it suited the available space at the small clubs — then those pitches would look ridiculous at the Emirates, Old Trafford and Wembley etc.

    On the other hand, football here is part of the community, and if the mandatory pitch dimensions were set to suit the huge stadiums of the top professional clubs, the small clubs could no longer play football — and there would be riots, as, at heart, football is a working man’s game.

    But if the FA/FIFA set flexible pitch dimensions to suit the different needs of all the clubs —- then we would end up with what already exists — so not so confusing after all. lol

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  39. Henry B is right. Before we complain too much, I seem to remember that Arsenal at Highbury had special dispensation to play in Europe because the ground could not accommodate a larger pitch. WHL is probably similar. But what should not be allowed IMO, is that you get to reduce the size as per your liking, if your ground can accommodate the European standard. Nor should newer grounds be granted exemptions that were given to pre existing stadia.

    Like

  40. I’m not really confused, Henry. I understand exactly why it’s allowed. I just think it’s crazy.

    Like

  41. Cricket is also a game traditionally run by men in blazers

    I have not heard of the pitch length bring somewhere between 20 and 24 yards

    Liked by 2 people

  42. UEFA allow existing dimensions of a pitch to be acceptable but if the ground is redeveloped then – if the club wish to participate in UEFA competition- that the pitch size meets minimum regulation.

    The notion of renting a stadium with a proper sized pitch and then shrinking it below the UEFA minimum is bollocks

    Liked by 3 people

  43. Anicoll, you are correct — what’s good for cricket should be good for football!

    All football pitches should be 1 chain long — OK, that’s 22 yards long and 10 feet wide. That’ll earn ’em.

    Come on now, you guys, back Anicoll — we want more Chains!! lol

    Liked by 2 people

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