Date: 16th November 2014 at 4:16pm
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There’s a stat given on the football365 site which claims Sanchez has the highest number of misplaced (103) short passes in the league this season. The source of the stat or what constitutes a short pass isn’t clear but it fits in with occasional observations made elsewhere. Most interestingly from the player himself in an interview he gave to AS Chile earlier this week.

Reflecting on the challenges in adapting to play in the Premier League he said:

‘This football is hard, very hard. It’s a struggle to adapt. Of all the leagues in which I have played, this is the most complicated. I like the challenge, but it’s not easy!’ adding that ‘All the teams are at a similar level, it’s very competitive and everyone can make life hard for you. All the matches are decided on the little things. I’m really enjoying it, you can’t slack off.’

As well as having to adapt to a different league he considers the natural adjustment to new team mates that has to be made when joining any new side.

‘Little by little I am gaining confidence in my team-mates and am gradually learning more,’ he told his interviewer. ‘At first I had trouble understanding them, knowing where they ran, their movements, what gestures meant what, but every time I feel more confident.

‘I am starting to recognise the moves of my team-mates and I learn to help them – clearly I need to improve and that is what I say in the dressing room, that I could stay a little less with the ball, play one touch play more often to facilitate counter-attacks, that is vital.

‘I must learn that because rapid transitions are key in this league and with this team.’

When asked what he had learned from the opening games in Arsenal colours his answer, along with a natural need for greater understanding of the movement of his team mates, perhaps indicates his appreciation of a need to exercise more control over his game.

‘That I need to relax. I have a strong desire to do well and that is not always a good companion. I must be calmer but still work hard. I know that things can work out without the need to make them happen faster. I need to think clinically and make better choices in order to give the right pass and score goals when I have the chance.’

His pass completion rates over the games he has played shows something of the need to adjust to his team mates, and for them to adjust to him of course, but also to adapt his play to a more calculated style, though in the four games prior to the Anderlecht game he had demonstrated that he can be as accurate as most.

At the same time in a player as spontaneous as Sanchez it has to be accepted that he will make ambitious attempts that won’t always come off. As VA member shewore pointed out in another thread the pass to Walcott late in the Swansea game would have gone down as a misplaced pass but you wouldn’t want him not to attempt such passes again. The figure for the misplaced short passes is where the focus needs to be and that has to be about understanding, concentration and mental focus rather than any failure in ability. Wenger is right to trust the player’s intelligence, with guidance, to recognise the need to change aspects of their individual play. It seems that Alexis has the intelligence to warrant that trust.

Even within that there’s as much of an issue of balance in accommodating the spontaneity of players like Sanchez. Tim Stillman, in his regular Arseblog column, makes an excellent observation here on the importance of players like Arteta and Ozil, mind’s eye players as I see them, in allowing Sanchez the freedom to play as off the cuff as a team game can reasonably permit. That’s the science that allows the magic to work.

While we have a number of midfield and forward resources, blending them into a cohesive unit still poses a challenge which will take a while to resolve, even without the need for players like Sanchez and Welbeck to settle into their positions.

In the same interview when asked what position left, right or centre he preferred Alexis may have indicated that we can anticipate further changes in playing format, replying ‘I love to play any of those three positions, but I’m a little more comfortable on the left, because it allows me to face defenders and make diagonal runs on my right foot. It is easier to score goals, to shoot.’

As a team we’re clearly still having to work though these changes, disrupted to a fair degree by injuries to key players at a crucial period of this settling process. Sanchez though seems convinced we have the resources to achieve our aspirations.

‘Now that I am here, sometimes I stop to watch my team-mates during the training session and I realise that I am surrounded by a lot of quality stars,’ he insisted. ‘I have been impressed by their attitude and their talent.

‘I love how they create spaces, their individual and collective movements.

‘I tell you seriously: I like what I see so much that I have repeated to myself many times, that if we have the required winning mentality, if we are positive and try to win every single game, I know we can win any competition.

‘I know that with this team we can win many trophies in the coming years. I am convinced of that.’

It’s been a frustrating start to a season with last season’s celebrations quickly forgotten, and there’ll be more frustration yet, but the prospect of exciting times ahead still seems real enough to me to be able to look forward more in anticipation than concern.