Alexis Sanchez rarely talks to the media unless it’s an interview with Arsenal’s in-house team or a PR event related to the Chilean national side, but over the past few weeks, the 28-year-old’s policy of speaking out publicly has changed dramatically.
Pundits have tried to read the enigmatic Sanchez, who has 23 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League this season, from his body language, his passion and commitment. But in recent weeks, such advanced techniques have not been necessary.
There has undoubtedly been a shift in Sanchez’s outwardness on the pitch this season. He looks more frustrated, angrier and more selfish in possession. It’s easy to understand why when you take an overview of Arsenal’s season. Arsene Wenger’s side were out of the Champions League and Premier League title race by mid-February and have never really got going, despite starting the season with a handful of positive results.
Recent comments from Alexis provided a telling glimpse into what is going on in his mind right now, even though many will suspect that he is being told to speak about his future by a representative or agent. From the quote in which said he wants to play for a "winning club" to his more recent murmurings about his frustration with the mentality of this current Arsenal side, it’s clear that Alexis is keeping all of his options open going into this summer.
“Sometimes the frustration more than anything is about the fact we could be challenging for the Premier League title,” he said.
"I've always said we have great players here, it's just about having the mentality of being a great player and going out on to the pitch already thinking about winning.”
And mentality is key here. Alexis spent his childhood growing up playing football on the rocky streets of Tocopilla in Chile. He knows what it means to win and will do anything to make it happen. Can the same be said for every single player in the Arsenal team? Results this season, particularly the implosions at West Brom, Bayern Munich and Crystal Palace, are examples of the collective disappointment that has taken over at the Emirates Stadium this season.
By no means should excuses be made for the way Alexis has conducted himself on and off the pitch at times, however. A training ground fight that was denied by Wenger and subsequently confirmed by Theo Walcott and Robert Pires reinforced the notion that the attacking maestro has become increasingly frustrated with his team-mates' efforts. The stats show that Alexis loses possession the most out of anyone in the Arsenal team in almost every domestic game this season. Different theories have been put forward as to why this is the case: is he always looking for the ball and trying to make things happen or is he someone careless in possession and wants to avoid passing to certain team-mates?
Then there is the relationship with the manager. Wenger brought Sanchez to Arsenal at a time where the Chilean couldn't get into the world’s best attacking frontline. He has proved that he is world class but this season has shone a light on the Frenchman’s inability to manage his team successfully in the biggest games. The comments from Sanchez about his manager were interesting because he chose not to defend the performances which Wenger has presided over this season - instead, he voiced his disappointment at the protests which have gained traction over the past few months.
"For me, [fan demonstrations are] very bad. He is the manager who gave a stadium to the club, won cups, and he has been 21 years in the job. He is the creator of the stadium, the players and style of the club,” he said.
Whatever happens in the coming months, you can be sure that Alexis Sanchez will be a man in demand. Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are just a handful of clubs who are monitoring his contract situation, with the deal set to expire at Emirates next summer.
The most important thing for Alexis is clearly winning trophies, and while an FA Cup may go some way to softening the blow of not being able to compete for the biggest prizes, it surely won’t be long before he realises that he needs to go elsewhere to win the most sought after silverware.