Alexis Sanchez, who joined the Nerazzurri on a loan from Manchester United, finally made his debut in the 1-0 victory over Udinese, one of his former clubs, putting in a solid shift in the 12 minutes cameo he was handed by Inter coach Antonio Conte.
The Chilean almost got on the end of an Antonio Candreva cross and had a shot on target saved from point-blank range by Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso, preventing him from doubling Inter’s lead. He could make his first start for Inter in their opening Champions League match against Slavia Prague, but his main target will be taking the starting spot next to Romelu Lukaku from fellow South American, Lautaro Martinez in a bid to revive his career.
This will be a battle for him however, as Martinez and Lukaku have looked good together as a partnership, with the former contributing one goal to Inter’s cause thus far this season. Conte has high hopes for Sanchez however, and Sanchez himself knows it. But can he take the starting spot from Martinez?
The 30-year old Chilean experienced a decline in his form in the past few seasons, following his switch from Arsenal to Manchester United. He was brilliant with Arsenal and was expected to replicate or improve on the same form with United. However, this didn’t go to plan as he was played out of position or in unfamiliar setups. These, and the injuries he suffered while playing for United contributed to his dip in form, leaving everyone wondering what happened the Sanchez of Arsenal.
His move to Inter is seen as one last push for redemption, and his inherent ability coupled with Conte’s ability to rejuvenate players and teams should do the trick.
Sanchez is a quick, energetic, creative and hardworking player with an eye for goal. Although he is naturally right-footed, he has been used across the attack due to his ability with either foot. He has been deployed as a main striker, a supporting striker, a winger, a false 9, and even as an attacking midfielder, although he performs best as a left-winger where he is able to invert and shoot, or whip in crosses for his teammates. Sanchez also possesses a fair bit of trickery which he uses to dribble past opponents in one-on-one situations to create space for himself or set-up his teammates. His technicality is also impressive as he is able to play a perfectly weighted pass or cross into the path of his teammates, which also makes him effective from set-pieces.
When compared to the man with whom he is to do battle for a starting slot this season, Martinez, Sanchez loses out in a key area which Conte appreciates in his players – the tactical attribute. This attribute is what helps players with position discipline as well as defensive capabilities. Martinez is an excellent high presser, and with Lukaku being an out-and-out striker who is not that great at defending from the front, a strike partner like Martinez is what Conte will require to keep the pressure up against opponents. Sanchez, while possessing great energy, is not disciplined enough to press from the front and close down defenders when they are on the ball.
One of the factors that could count as an advantage for a Sanchez-Lukaku partnership over a Martinez-Lukaku partnership is the former pair’s friendship formed during their time at Manchester United. They both know how each other play, have played more matches together and have trained together longer than the latter pair has. However, with Martinez looking to have his breakout season with Inter in Europe, he is going to pose a very big challenge for Sanchez, who is seeking redemption for his career.
Inter played a 3-4-2-1 against Udinese as set up by Conte, and this is the only formation in which Sanchez may not have to battle with Martinez for a starting berth. But as long as Conte’s go-to formation remains the 3-5-2. it will only take a serious dip in the form of the Argentine to have that role taken from Martinez by Sanchez.
A substitute role will have to do for the Chilean, but he is sure to have his career revitalised under Conte at Inter.