Alexis Sanchez had just been confirmed as the stellar new winter signing for Manchester United. We at Twelve are curious to know how the introduction of Alexis will impact Mourinho’s side. It is certain that Alexis will bring a greater attacking threat, but what can a Manchester United fans expect to see from him?
Alexis is a dynamic player that can occupy any attacking position across the frontline. Having played on right during his time at Barcelona, he is also comfortable on the left where he often played during his time at Arsenal. Alexis can even play as a play-maker or as a false nine as he had done at times in the national level and Udinese. It is difficult then to predict where his place will be in Mourinho’s side.
We can start by comparing Alexis’ performance this season with the rest of Manchester United’s squad. Using Twelve’s system, Alexis places first in overall points per minutes played throughout the season. Not surprisingly, his biggest contribution is his ability to generate offensive opportunities with passes and dribbles (green) while a fair share of his total contributions also comes from shots and goals (blue). Considering Mourinho’s defensive philosophy, Alexis will most likely be expected to increase defensive (red) and press (yellow) contributions to match those of Rashford and Martial. This should be no problem; the Chilean has always been highlighted for his work-rate and pressing abilities.
A new Martial to the team: If we focus a more detailed view of Alexis’s offensive display so far in the season, we can see that his best attacking contributions happen just inside and outside the penalty box. Alexis has the pace to get the ball in the middle of the pitch, carry it forward and find the space to release his teammates into. He also has the agility to receive the ball inside the opposition’s box, keep possession and work a shooting opportunity. When comparing offensive actions, we can’t help but see similarities in the between Alexis and Martial.
Attacking symmetry: We might expect that Mourinho will first try to place Sanchez on the right, a position that Mata currently occupies, to mirror Matial’s movement. When in control of the ball, Mata usually cuts inside and moves into a more creative central role. This is seen by the fact that Mata’s best attacking contributions only come from outside the penalty box. Alexis will offer Manchester United a direct route to the opposition’s penalty box taking advantage of the run of Antonio Valencia from behind. This reminds us of his time at Udinese and Barcelona.
Numbers will increase: Alexis has lacked efficiency in front of goal this season, having only scored 7 goals from 46 shots compared to last season where he converted in 24 occasions from 86 shots. A role from the left has made him predictable at times by always choosing to cut inside with his right foot. If Mourinho favours the option of playing him on the right it might help Alexis be more involved in the finishing.
Increased discipline from Alexis: From the later part of 16/17 season until now, Sanchez has had the tendency to drop deep in search of involvement in the play. Sometimes forced by discouraging results at Arsenal, Sanchez seeks to fill the void that allows his team to move the ball up the pitch. This has been the cause of a lot of unforced errors and lost possessions (marked by “x” in the diagram below). Often lost possession by Alexis has left Arsenal’s defence badly shaped and vulnerable as the team transitions into attack.
Manchester United’s next test in the Premier League will be against Tottenham. We expect Alexis to make an appearance from the start and show his offensive versatility, that no doubt will fit into Mourinho’s side.
Sebastian Cardoch is a football data analyst at Twelve.