It may have taken three years, but Alexis Sanchez is finally starting to repay the faith shown in him at Barcelona. Having initially struggled to exert an influence on the side consistently, his performances so far this season have been significantly better. His goal in the derby against Espanyol on Friday night provided further evidence of this; he has now scored seven goals and made two assists in nine league games so far this season.
He is of course not the first forward to struggle settling into the Barcelona line up. With the mercurial Lionel Messi being the focal point of the side it can often lead to other forward players being marginalised. Chances in the team become incredibly pressurised due to the need to win almost every game and Sanchez struggled to exert himself during his first two seasons with the Catalan club.
Too often he would look for Messi when playing last season and became less reliant on the skills which brought about his move to from Udinese in 2011. He is blessed with a wonderful technique and an unbelievable turn of pace which should have made him stand out from day one in Spain.
However, since the beginning of the season there appears to be a huge difference in Alexis and this added confidence is now showing on the pitch. With the new head coach Tata Martino arriving, there has been an emphasis on squad rotation which previously didn’t happen as frequently. It has resulted in more playing time and more opportunities for him to build relationships with Messi and Barca’s new signing Neymar.
Whilst the majority of the credit must lie with Sanchez himself, the back room staff at Barcelona should also be recognised as pivotal in his transformation. Confidence is a fragile thing to hold onto when things are not going well on the pitch.
Self doubt and insecurities clearly affected the Chilean last season, but his extra spark this season has been noticeable. The coaches have always been keen to put their arm around him and give him morale boosting praise. With all of this positive reinforcement around him the effects have been clear to see.
There remains a long way to go if Barcelona are to consider this a successful season. The desire at the club to avenge their humbling by Bayern Munich in the Champions League clearly burns strong and the club must maintain their improvement if this is to happen. With Martino clearly targeting the latter stages of the season already with his rotation policy he will need Alexis in this form if they are to be successful.
It has not been an easy transition for Sanchez since his arrival at Barcelona but his determination and self belief are being rewarded at this moment in time. He could easily have thrown in the towel and looked for move to a club where he was guaranteed minutes. However, he has remained and has fought hard to be where he is now.
His contributions so far this season have been instrumental in the Catalan’s superb start to the season. His goal in el Clasico was crucial and will have given him even more confidence. Having scored the decisive goal in the derby this weekend too, Alexis Sanchez is finally proving his worth to Barcelona.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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