The Chilean has been a valuable member for the Italian giants since the 2019-20 season.
A few years ago the name of Alexis Sanchez would mean nothing less than exceptional goals, amazing skills and tremendous athleticism. But now times have changed and Alexis Sanchez, who was Arsenal’s talisman, struggled at Manchester United was later allowed to join Inter on a free transfer.
Alexis Sanchez showed glimpses of that old menace that the Chilean once was in the Premier League with Arsenal. In Antonio Conte’s traditional 3-5-2 formation, Sanchez played upfront with either Romelu Lukaku or Lautaro Martinez. He partnered with the Argentine when Lukaku was sidelined for a while due to an injury. Serie A’s relatively slower temperament in comparison with the Premier League and the prolonged break allowed the 31-year-old to rediscover his form.
Alexis Sanchez arrived in North Italy with a bang and right from the start combined well with Lautaro Martinez as the duo found each other like they have been playing together since eternity. They had a telepathic reaction to each others movement and gave the Serie A defenders no reference point. The famous LuLa strike partnership of Lukaku and Martinez was still in it’s developing phase and the addition of Sanchez surprising – but a deal that worked well for the Serie A giants.
However, his highlight early in the season was the match against Barcelona at Camp Nou, as the 31-year old returned to the place where he was nurtured to rub shoulders with the best in the world. Sanchez was a handful for Clement Lenglet as the Chilean kept him busy and finally pulled him out of position allowing Lautaro to exploit the opening in the final third.
Lautaro scored the opening goal, while Alexis Sanchez received his due credit. The critics were once again reminded of the talent Alexis Sanchez had when the Blaugrana signed him a decade ago to play under Pep Guardiola.
However, his loan stint at Inter was at jeopardy as he was sidelined with a serious ankle injury which kept him out of action from October to January and in order missed 14 games for the Nerazzurri. It proved to be a blessing in disguise for the former Barcelona man as he came back stronger since the restart of the Serie A. The forced break due to the pandemic made him physically fitter and also gave him time to find himself amidst all the negativity.
Alexis Sanchez has shone in this new role where Conte allows him to roam freely and exploit the half-spaces playing just behind the main striker. The Chilean, along with Lautaro or Lukaku form the first line of press for Inter, where he has shown tremendous work rate. On top of that, he often drops deep in midfield and picks out diagonal passes for the wing backs, making the wide runs which in order stretches the opposition defence and allows the Lautaro/Lukaku to be the focal point in the penalty area waiting for a cross while he himself sets up to collect the loose balls near the final third.
Throughout his career, Alexis Sanchez has played on both flanks and that has allowed him to adapt to Conte’s system and also helped the Italian tactician to be more flexible in attack. Sanchez’s primary responsibility is to pull out defenders from their positions and setting up passes to exploit that space for his partner. He loves treading down the last defender’s shoulder and often moves out wide and takes up the role of a winger. His relentless work ethic and tenacity has allowed Inter to reign supreme in most of the games.
When he drifts wide he often creates an overload on either flank pairing up with the respective wing back. In the 2019-20 season, he has shared great chemistry with both Antonio Candreva and Ashley Young and has assisted both. The overload on either side puts the opposition defence under tremendous pressure and therefore they leave a lot of space on the other side and hence a switch in play in the final third puts the Nerazzurri forwards in open goalscoring positions. This whole movement was often orchestrated by Sanchez himself.
In his first full Serie A game, he was tremendous against Brescia as Inter trashed them 6-0 and Sanchez had six goal involvements in his six starts at that time. But as he kept on playing he went on re-discovering his older self that used to turn up for Arsenal in the Premier League and break havoc against opposition defenders.
With Lautaro Martinez wanted by several clubs and especially by Barcelona, there is a possibility that the Italian giants will have to leave the Argentine in the near future. Therefore Sanchez’s spot might be a very short term solution for Inter but the team believe that he can be a difference-maker in the coming seasons. With four goals and nine assists in a season, Sanchez promises a lot more in the near future.