Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why is Alexis so important for Barcelona?

First of all I want to say that I'm very disappointed with my fellow cules in recent months. I know that most of them have jumped in the glory bandwagon in recent years with all the success and because of Messi, but still. I personally think that the best team needs the best fans as well. The amount of (unfair) criticism that Alexis has recived makes me just very very angry. Take yourself together and act like Pep Guardiola have taught you in recent years.

Now lets get to the point. I've been one of those few who had an eye on Alexis before he came to Barca. He impressed me in the World Cup 2010 with the most attractive side of the tournament, led by Marcelo Bielsa. He was one of the standout players of this tournament although he really never got the attantion. He was a pacy winger with good trickery, but as well very intelligent with his movements and always a fantastic workrate. So I started to follow him at Udinese, the 2010/11 season I watched almost every single game and if you'd remember I even made video compilations of him, his performances against other teams. He had of course a different role at Udinese, he played as SS, behind Di Natale, he had a lot of freedom there, often combining with his fellow national teammate Mauricio Isla down the right flank as well. Around January, Barcelona started to show interest on him and sent scouts to follow him. He was exactly the kind of player Barcelona were looking for. At the end of the season, he helped Udinese to the Champions League spot and was voted as 'Best player in Serie A 2010/11 season'

It wasn't time for him to settle in, he was thrown right into the biggest clash in todays football - El Clasico. He played his first game at the Bernabeu vs Real Madrid. His first touch in Barca's shirt was when he tracked back to took the ball from Cristiano's feet and make a backheel pass to Thiago. He terrorized Marcelo down the right flank, often left him dead with his pace and trickery. Everybody started to love him. He shared his place and minutes with Pedro & Villa, but his strong performances before the league Clasico in December earned him a starting XI place in the squad for this game. People tend to forget that he earned his place in this game over Pedro & Villa who were both full fit to play!!! Alexis played as a true number #9 this game, just ahead of Messi. It was him who scored the vital first comeback goal, after Valdes' mistake in the first minute. With his intelligent movements and workrate, he also earned his spot from the Spanish Cup games couple of weeks later when Barcelona advanced to Copa Del Rey semi-final. Everybody fell in love with Alexis, remember those days? He scored 15 goals this season and was Barca's 2nd best goalscorer behind Messi and Barca's main attacking players as well behind Leo. Guardiola was so fond with him that he even said after those games with Real Madrid that Alexis 'stole his heart'.

Now lets get to the point why he is so useful for the team. Lets start with his perhaps best attribute in my opinion. His diagonal runs that creates space for his teammates. Why is this so important? Well, they are basicly assists that won't go to the stats.
Real Betis 1 Barcelona 2
The game that went down as a historic game for Messi, because he broke that Muller record of most goals scored in a single season. Alexis was on the bench but came on after 10th minute for injured Cesc.
If you look at those goals, the first one, when Messi recives the ball from Iniesta, Alexis makes a diagonal run inside with only the purpose to drag a player away, just to create that extra space for Messi to run into and score this goal. Like Axel Torres said, it was bascily an assist. He also made a contribution to the second goal, with the same diagonal run to drag his defender away to create that space down the right flank.
There are many other example where he have created a goal with his runs like this or this.


His movements to create space for himself, his runs behind the defence and diagonal runs. One of the best attributes that a player could have. To make himself available on the pitch and not hiding himself behind defender for just the sake of being afraid. Xavi said: “Alexis gives us great depth. For a midfielder like me it is a privilege to have someone who has the ability to leave his markers behind like he does.”
You can't argue with Xavi, that's a fact!
The thing with these runs is that when you make them you are useful for the team so many ways. a) to create a mess with the defensive lineup b) to give midfielder an  extra option c) even when you won't recive the pass, your job is done, because you dragged away a defender for other player.

His defensive work. One of the main reasons why Barcelona started to scout Alexis and start to attract their attention was that he can run without the ball and help his team with defensive duties, something thats vital for this Barcelona side, especially since 2010/11 season.  When they start to play Messi regularry as a false 9 and the wingers had to track back from their flanks a lot. Alexis can provide that. And it's not only tracking back, it's also putting pressure on defenders and having strikers as first line of defence. If you are still wondering, watch the last 90 minutes of Granada vs Barcelona (1-2) when Barca took off Alexis and Pedro. and replaced them with lesser defensive work Iniesta and Tello. Barcelona struggled and defended near their own box, something they didn't have in the first 80 minutes because the strikers had the legs to put constant pressure, high up the pitch, to the defender and thus get the ball back very soon. Barcelona have been so innovative and changing the concepts of the game. They struggle defensivly when you take off their 2 strikers and struggle offensivly when you take off Pique, who can build from the back so well.

Now is the moment to hear the "Bbbb...Buu...But he doesn't score goals does he? Thats the main job of the striker isn't it?

Well is it really? If you guys remember, Spain won the Euro Cup in 2012 basicly without striker and produced one of the greatest finals with 6 midfielders. Did they need a striker so bad to score goals? NO! David Silva, who is barely 170cm, scored a header, Jordi Alba who is even more shorter and a defender scored.

Theres´s a good saying: "We are attackers who defend, we are defenders who attack!"
It describes Barcelona so well. It's Total Football, everybody must be comfortable in every position, every situation. Barcelona is not the club where you have a tall figure up front, poking goals for fun.

Alexis have showed that he could be so useful for the team on so many ways. Lets take the Getafe game.

This shows you why Alexis is so important for this team. His constant moving helps his team. He created so many chances by just making runs. He is every midfielders dream. With his movements he makes his team better. But also creates chances for himself, like for example his goal or the run just before that. Or the last play, where he moved inside to leave the flank open for Dani, then made a quick run towards him, defender went the same way, but then quickly changed his direction and Alves released his this ball and he was completely empty for the header, leaving defender for dead.

There's not a single doubt that he is lacking some confidence this season in front of goal and taking players 1v1. He said in September that he'd give himself 5 out of 10 so far, which means he is critical about himself. This is very important, he knows he can do better and he gives everything to do his best. But even when he struggles to get to the scoresheet, he is still a very very important player for this team. I would compare it to Messi when he at times struggles to get his into his usual rythm, like this year against Atletico Madrid which Barcelona won 4-1, where Leo wasn't very good but still managed to score late goals. Alexis struggles to score perhaps at the moment, but the can make runs to open up to Messi to score 2 goals, like against Real Betis.
Confidence only comes back when you give some time and don't jump down his throat every single opportunity. And with confidence comes back his goals, because we all know he CAN score. Otherwise he wouldn't score 15 goals in his first season even with all those injuries and 4 goals in 48 minutes. SO be positive, love Alexis and be proud that you can see with your own eyes one of the best team in history!


  1. Man..This is so f****ng true..Greetings from Montenegro.

  2. nobody can convince me like you do, you were the one who opened up my eyes for busquets, now he's my favorite player (i would give him the ballon d'or). anyway i love alexis (won't play pes13 without him), i fully understand what you were trying to say yesterday and why you were mad. pedro and jordi alba make the same runs as alexis, and i think if alexis would score, so does alba and pedro (i'm no waiting goals from alexis, that's what i'm rying to say) love your articules as well as your videos, one of the best culés i know. visca el barca, visca catalunia. (reply maybe?)

  3. Apart from what Allas has so elegantly pointed out, just so u guys know - tell me pls why cules love Pedro so much and hate Alexis so much - I can tell u with certainty, Pedro isnt scoring as much as he used to and Alexis creates twice as many chances for the team as Pedro does every game. Maybe Pedro can defend for 80 mins up and down and Alexis for 70? Otherwise you cant expect a better player for our team, esp when midfielders like Xavi need those vertical/diagonal runs so badly. In fact in all the important games, I want Alexis to start. Thats how imp he is for Leo and Xavi.

  4. The reason he was so much better and beloved last season versus this season is because of the loss of his first touch.

    He's never been a great goalscorer, and he knows it. That's why Alexis has been a pass first player, one of the best passers of the ball inside the box, finding gaps between defenders.

    However, with his poor touch this season, he often fails to get control of the ball in good spots. So neither shot nor extra pass to a late arriving teammate is happening. Instead, he's just falling down. The scoring chances were bad enough against Granada... He had Messi arriving in large open pockets of space and just could not get him the ball, instead just bundling over.

    If he can find his first touch, he'll be back to a being a staple of the starting XI(and a fan favorite).

    I understand why anyone who recognises footballing tactics and movements appreciates Alexis. But his inability ON THE BALL of late makes it hard to justify his place.

    In fact, something identical happened to Dani Alves during 2012. Dani never loss his intelligence on the pitch. He still made fantastic runs, amazing workrate. However, Dani could not play a final ball or make a clean tackle to save his life. He's since returned to form (continued faith in him rewarded). Now the Xavi diagonal to Dani crossing to Messi is the best play in all of world football.

    I say continue to have faith in Alexis, but do not deny that he's loss form and is not where he needs to be with his ball control.

  5. barca could easily live without him... nodoubt about that...

    1. No. He is essential for Titos system. Allas pointed out so many things why he is as important as Pedro and why he is so important for our team. Petro was just in better condition than Alexis in this season, and maybe ya, Pedro does a lot more work for the defensive on the right side, that is the reason why he often has to be subbed off after 60 min.

  6. Good stuff. Especially his off the ball movement is overlooked so often. Cheers !

  7. Regardless of what Alexis' worth is - how is "Spain won the Euro without strikers" an excuse for a striker not scoring goals? A striker's main job IS to score goals, no matter what you say, and Spain playing WITHOUT strikers has absolutely nothing to do with Barca playing WITH a striker and him not scoring. It's like you're saying it's okay that Alexis doesn't score simply because the midfielders or defenders can score instead? What kind of logic is that? The fact remains that when he - or anyone else - continues to miss chance after chance, it IS a problem. And his past successes aren't an excuse for current poor form. Cules have a right to be upset at the ridiculous way he keeps screwing up chances.

    1. Everyone will be upset at any of our players screwing up chances. But to call Alexis' head for his misses is also ridiculous simply because this post has pointed out he had done enough other things to make that up.

      Perhaps this is easier: Yes he missed chances, but he created 10 other chances for teammates and provided defense that we need, but of course, people won't give credit for this kind of seemingly invisible things.

    2. Credit is due for other things he does but those things don't cancel out the other - main - problems he has. And the whole part about Spain not playing with strikers remains completely out of the blue and irrelevant.

    3. What Allas meant was that if Spain can score/win without any real strikers then Barca can too, not that Sanchez SHOULDNT score, just that a team composed of many midfielders can also win (important) games.
      But if you noticed carefully, you will be surprised to find out that more than half of Spain's squad is filled with Barca players and Spain plays almost the same football as Barca.
      I agree that Sanchez is in a very poor form this season, but your lack of ability to connect Spain and Barca astounds me.

  8. So glad to have found your blog.
    I just wish Alexis gets back his vital first touch and all will be fine. There are online experts who have already started pricing Alexis. I hope club will stick with this wonderful guy.
    Please do visit the barcelonafootballblog dot com, you will find some hot debates going over there.
    All the best Allas, you are a star.

  9. glad to have found your blog. :)

  10. Nice work, allas...Good luck

  11. It's good that Alexis makes this movements. There are some players who don't, like Zlatan. However, most players have the tactical intelligence to make them so this doesn't make him that important. Pedro, Villa, Tello, Bojan, all could do them. Alexis, unfortunately has proved not to be very important for us.

  12. Nice article on Alexis. Point 3 was spot on, its true that with Pedro and Alexis not playing our defense gets weak. I do disagree with the fact that its ok that he doesn't score goals. He should, that's his job. But I do understand that he has a bad season and will find his touch sometime soon and will start scoring goals again.

  13. Great Article. He does bring a lot to the Barca team and makes it a lot easier for teammates. Don't get mad at other people for not noticing this as most people do not have a footballing brain and only see the goals and assists ect.. unlike you. He would be an amazing player if he was able to do what he does now and also be able to finish. It would take a lot of responsibility off of Messi which we definately need. Eg. against Granada last weekend he had two chances in the first 10. If he was to score them it would of been game over but it turned out to be very frustrating and we almost lost the game. Apart from his finishing he was very good against Granada. Obviously doesn't deserve the stick he gets.

  14. I don't know, but I think that Villa can do this plus he can score, why not making Alexis as sub, he may get his level that way ..

    1. I don't know why you said this or if you even think before you say, but Villa definately can't provide what Alexis does. (And vice versa) Since Villa started to play football, he has alwyas been the main man, the one who finishes the moves, a fantastic goalscorer. Although he has been integrated very well to this team, its still not in his blood some of the things, like making a run just to create space for Messi. Heres a good example for you. Alexis would've made a diagonal run there and Messi would've been 1v1, but Villa hesitated, until the final moment he wanted the ball in his feet, like he's been used to bascily in his whole career.

      So next time try to prove your points a little bit better, otherwise it's just a useless comment. Thanks.

    2. I just think that Alexis need to sit on the bunch, on my point of view it's the best way to get back his great performances and goal scoring, but if Alexis can make a run to clear the area for Messi, I think Villa could do it too, I like Alexis and I always defend him when I talk about FCB with friends, but it's just too much opportunities he got, others didn't had the half of those.

      and Messi being the STAR of the team it's not a great idea, for sure he'll broke some records, but look at his teammates confidence, I miss the days when Pedro, Villa scored 10 goals, even Ibrahimovic the great player dismissed because of this lame tactic, Ibrahimovic would be great in closed games as last week Vs Milan, or last year Vs Chelsea, I DON'T KNOW again maybe I'm wrong, who knows

  15. The problem is we need more goals from players that aren't Messi. Since Alexis is the one who takes more opportunities to score (because of his great work he creates a lot of opportunities) but fail a lot lately, he is the easy one to blame. Pedro isn't scoring but is even worst, because he's almost not creating any chance to score lately. Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta aren't scoring neither. So, in my opinion, Barcelona has a big problem, at least in the very important games. We have seen it last season against Chelsea and Madrid, before against Inter Milan, now Milan (and Madrid again). If Messi doesn´t score = we lose. So I think we need more goals, and a player that can creates opportunities for himself and let Messi more freedom. Neymar could be the answer.

    1. Those games you mentioned, apart from Milan couple of days ago, Barca have created tons of chances, outplayed their opponents and scored lots of goals. Just because Barca didn't advance in those ties doesn't mean everything in the world is bad and wrong you know. And btw, you mentioned that we need goals apart from Leo and later said we 'lost' because he didn't score. Where's the common sense in here?

    2. Man, it got sense, I said we lose when Messi doesn´t score because nobody else scores. That is the reason we need other players that can score, so when Messi doesn't other does. Go and check last season stadistics and look what happens when Leo didn't score. Isn't just that games I mentioned before, you can just take the whole 2011-2012 season to see how much we depends on Messi goals. And yes, Barça created a tons of chances against Chelsea (not son many against Madrid or inter) but the problem isn't creating chances (in fact we have the best creators of chances), the problem is that, besides Leo, we haven't players that convert that chances into goals. Madrid has the same problem this year, depends too much on Cristiano's goals because Benzema, Higuain and Di Maria aren't on the same level they was last season. In Barcelona, we had these problem since Eto'o left, but because we have the best player in the history of football we overlooked it. People says we don't have a plan B. We don't need a plan B, we need a player B, that can score by himself.

    3. By the way, excuse my english, I know it's not as good as it should be (also it makes it a little more difficult to explain myself).

  16. @Allas,
    Your analysis is not wrong per se (i would say its is absolutely spot on), but at the same time it is highly one-sided and one-dimensional..

    True, Alexis can provide all that, but you cleverly avoided all that he cannot provide..
    And, in essence, your points are not four, they are in fact only two: diagonal runs (movement at the back of the defense) and defensive workrate covering all the way to the edge of barcelona's own box..
    The latter is an attribute that also pedro posseses and villa shown to be able to provide.. Maybe not at the same levels (for villa), but sufficiently..

    So, is it really worth only for the former??
    On that: Some times you need also to be able to finish when you receive the ball during your diagonal runs.. Its fine when messi exploits the space and finishes off himself.. But what happens when alexis receives the ball himself after his run? Is he able to finish off?? That is very important, as we know that barca can create chances but struggles to convert them so many times..
    For example when villa made diagonal runs (or just runs at the back of the opposition) he was always able to convert. And he had provided many times for messi himself. - i.e. arsenal away villa assists for messi only to slightly miss and then messi assists for villa to net it -
    And actually, there was a nice video - cannot find it right now - whith messi+ villa assists and goals, you could see how well the two of them could combine..
    Messi is a false 9, but in his blood is the number 10, villa was made into a wide forward, but in his blood is the number 9..
    And it is much better for wide forwards to be able to score easily in the 4-3-3 so that the weight can be lift off of messi's shoulders.. Besides the team is highly predictable when only messi can score..
    That is why the 4-3-3 was so effective with Eto'o and Henry in 08-09, as they were both forwards and they could finish off right away when finding themselves in any goalscoring angle..
    It was also so effective in 10-11 bcz pedro and villa could do the same. in CL final both of them scored..
    And actually the 23 goals of Villa that season (especially the number he managed until halfway) is a number alexis is questionable if he would be able to reach..

    What is more:
    What about scoring from some meters away from the goal? Can alexis provide that?
    Both villa and pedro are far better in shooting..
    Alexis has many times found himself in positions at the end of the box but did not take the chance to score goals like these:

    I didnt mention 1Vs1. Alexis has been pretty terrible on that. His touch is very bad. He seem to can only play with his back and making basic moves only.. Villa and Pedro were neither good on 1Vs1, however still above alexis..

    I am sorry. Alexis has some good elements, i know that you like him, but your analysis is highly biased. You neglect whole aspects of a player's capability..

    1. I agree with you but we shouldn't lose faith in Sanchez just yet. He is still young and may discover that beautiful first touch and start scoring. Perhaps not quality goals such as villa but lets be honest not even Messi can provide does kind of goals. Pure beauty. Sanchez aint stupid and he should be able to learn anytime soon how to drible and score and overcome his weakness cause he trains with the best squad in the end. Thats all we are hoping for isnt it? Pedro isnt any better at all. What does he do besides running offside 7/10 and smile when he fails? He was still better before alot and I get the feeling that he wont get any better. Perhaps if they let him play as right forward instead considering his succes with the national team. If only both sanchez and pedro could finish off like Adriano oh boy..

  17. I really like him and I've been defending him all year. He and Busquets are some of my favourites, because they are so unconventional. The problem is that people are being influenced by the media, allways trying to sell new stories. I bet that if Barça tries to sell him, Pep would be very happy to take him to Bayern Munchen.