Artem Denisov – about a bold renaissance.
Alexis Sanchez is certainly not a major player in the 2010s, but a valuable name to chronicle the decade. Outburst at Udinese, help to Barcelona, Chile’s leader (two America’s Cups, by the way!), great game for Arsenal with an outstanding 2016/17 season – scored 24+10 in the Premier League alone. Then he went to Man United for trophies, but this club is not in the chapter “Achievements” on Sanchez’s Wikipedia page. Inter seemed like the twilight of a strong player who never became a megastar.
And yet, at 34, Sanchez reminds of himself in Marseille. No, it doesn’t break Ligue 1 with performance: with 9 goals, it is kept by the club’s top scorer, but this is not even the top 10 in the championship. And no, he doesn’t shine in European competition, although he dreamed about it when he went to France in the summer of 2022.
His personal feat is the conditions in which Sanchez is back in order. Not at all a hothouse pension with rest without a ball and frills in possession. Alexis plays in one of the most aggressive and intense teams in Europe where you can’t goof off.
Sanchez has never been an athlete. At Arsenal he ran less than Ozil, at Manchester United he accelerated worse than Mata, at Inter he was executed by Conte
Important: there is no direct correlation between “the player runs a lot/fast/intensively” and “the player is doing well”. All the details below are important to highlight the power of Sanchez’s transformation. What is happening now is in stark contrast to the rest of Alexis’ career.
The Chilean has never plowed without a ball. His fighting qualities were highlighted by assertiveness in possession. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain called Sanchez a Duracell battery for his intransigence. But Alexis never seemed to be an athlete, he did without jet accelerations, sharpness and coordination were much more important.
Even at the best of times – like the great 2016/17 season – he didn’t excel in running volume. During the first round of the Premier League, in 0 cases out of 19, I ran more than 10+ kilometers. For comparison: Ozil, who is also, to put it mildly, not a pressing machine, broke the mark in 14 out of 16 games. The form has become a meme: after a 1-2 away from Manchester City in December, it was highlighted that Sanchez’s 8.3 km in 90 minutes is closer to Petr Cech’s 5.05 km than to Granit Xhaka’s 12.15 km.
In just 5 seasons in the Premier League (3.5 at Arsenal, 1.5 at Manchester United), Sanchez only hit 10+ km per game 5 times. Record – 10.5 for Manchester United against Liverpool in the 2017/18 season.
Arsene Wenger avoided discussions: “You have all the statistics, draw your own conclusions.” British experts drew conclusions: Sky Sports, for example, indicated that the number of intense jerks of Sanchez decreases as the seasons progress. He breathes out.
There was another funny detail at Manchester United – The Telegraph reported that Sanchez was inferior even to Juan Mata in sprint training. If you don’t know how to react to this, we’ll tell you: it’s a shame to give in to Mata in the sprint.
At Inter, Antonio Conte said that Sanchez was not kept at the base precisely because of his weak physical form: “To enter the field, the players must be physically ready. I’m not crazy, not an imbecile who wants to hurt himself. I won’t just keep a ready player on the bench. I’m not crazy and I don’t want to do hara-kiri.”
In Marseille, it is Sanchez’s physical readiness that is admired. It withstands loads – Payet, for example, no
One of Sanchez’s biggest fans at Marseille is Thierry Henry. Here is an interesting observation from an Amazon Prime expert: “I was jealous looking at the passion of Sanchez in the game against Monaco (1:1). The next day, I arrived at Marseille’s training and noticed that Sanchez was doing sprints after a very physically difficult game. And around it is felt that this is a real role model. People nearby see: he is 34, he is a big player, he has won a lot, but he continues to work hard. Direction appears immediately.
Marseille quickly fell in love with Sanchez. Athletic director Javier Ribalta announced Alexis with a call that money is not the main thing for him. The Chilean agreed to three million a year in France, although four were offered in less prestigious championships (according to rumors, it was Galatasaray). Burning fans of the Velodrome met Sanchez in the city so much that they almost burned him with flares.
Igor Tudor, who became Marseille’s coach a month before Sanchez arrived, rejoiced at Alexis: “He is a mental champion. Talent, intelligence, passion, professionalism – we need such a player. He is not here for pleasure, he will give all the best, like everyone else.
Tudor kept his word. Marseille leaked the pre-season, the Croatian coach put captain Dimitri Payet on the bench, protests seemed to be preparing in the dressing room (Matteo Guendouzi and Payet requested meetings with the management to discuss Tudor’s methods), but here are the dry numbers: Marseille are 2nd after 24 rounds, 5 points behind PSG. And he kicked this PSG out of the French Cup.
And he did it in a mega-intense and aggressive style: high pressure, personal orientation, even central defenders are included in the penalty area. This is how Marseille plays the whole season. Pre-season suffering paid off with elite fitness.
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