Alexis Sanchez – Udinese’s humble maestro

Asked what he thinks of the comparisons made between himself and Cristiano Ronaldo, the player shies away, embarrassed such a comparison would ever be drawn, before quickly reminding the interviewer that he has barely won anything. There is a certain timid quality to Alexis Sanchez’s character that is both endearing and admirable as he admits he entered the world of football for the sake of his family, in hope of providing them with a better life.
However on the pitch, the player oozes confidence that verges on arrogance, the type you need in order to whizz past five Boca Junior players in your first Superclasico before being hauled down in the box. It is this paradoxical nature that makes Sanchez such a good player, as he attempts to fulfill his ambition whilst remaining acutely aware of his humble beginnings and continuing to dedicate himself to his family.
Despite his astonishing talent, Sanchez applies himself fully to his profession and has been regularly applauded for this season his hard-work on the pitch – a way to show his appreciation for the opportunities handed to him. As an integral part of the squad alongside Antonio Di Natale, Coach Francesco Guidolin admitted after the match against Lazio that: “when those two silver arrows are leading the way, we play a very different tune.”
Considering how much more effective and confident Udinese appeared to be with their Chilean ace back in the side, it is perhaps easy to understand Guidolin’s comments. However on Sunday afternoon, Sanchez’s performance proved he is a great deal more that just technical skill, showcasing an innate understanding of the game that proved to be decisive in the game. With only 47 touches of the ball, half the amount he is usually capable of in an average match, and still recuperating from a strain, Sanchez still played an invaluable role in Udinese’s win, using intellect to make up for an ailing physical condition.
Struggling to maintain a high defensive line, Lazio were susceptible to a quick counter-attack and Udinese spotted the opportunity. Usually tasked with the role of splitting a defence in half, he was aware that his poor form restricted his usual method of play so the Chilean was instead deployed in a more withdrawn role, playing some distance behind Di Natale.
In this deeper role, Udinese exploited Sanchez’s extraordinary vision and capacity for a quick pass to launch several counter-attacks for the likes of Mauricio Isla to pursue on the wings, slicing up a Lazio defence that has been lauded for their solidity this season. Making the most of his knowledge of his colleagues’ attributes, in addition to noticing the weakness of those attempting to impede him, Sanchez repeatedly lobbed the ball over the top of the line in a manner that invited the pace of the wingers he had on either side to exploit the opportunity – and they did, repeatedly, as le Aquile crumbled.
When in the 24th minute of the game Sanchez snatched the ball to unleash a lethal pass into the path of the right-winger, he demonstrated a deep understanding of the formation deployed and of the roles of his teammates, who Guidolin had positioned perfectly. Moreover, his defensive contribution provided additional security for the back-line as he ran back and forth covering space.
Having previously worked under Marcelo Bielsa, the ex-Chilean national team Coach who adopted a 3-3-1-3 formation based on similar principals as the one played under Guidolin in Udinese, Sanchez has developed his footballing mind to such a degree that the player can now make a difference in any match – whether he is fully fit or not.

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