Alexis joined Barça last season after a few successful years in Italian football. He didn’t require a lot of time to leave a mark. Despite being a bit small, his speed and finishing skills helped him be named the best player in that competitive tournament, just before he joined FCB.
He started his career as a Barça player mostly as a winger, but sometimes in the centre of the attack too. He understood Barça’s philosophy right from the beginning probably due to his impressive hard working attitude and disposition to learn. Pep and his former coach at Chile’s national team, Marcelo Bielsa, shared vision and working styles, which made everything easier for Alexis. From being a player that kept the ball too long while performing lots of tricks (which were well received in South America, but could be a disaster for Barça), he became a player that was able to pass accurately and situate well in the attack to free Messi from pressure, but also to receive the ball in advantegous positions. His mission at Barça is not being a top scorer, but still managed to score 15 goals last season.
The Barça style seemed to fit him like a glove despite coming from such a different football style from which Italy has. This season, however, for some reason that is not easy to unveil, his performances have been far from what he had us used to – his main ability being to take rivals down and open the spectrum for attack. Or as Pep used to say to “stretch the carpet” of our attack. There may be some lack of confidence that Alexis is showing which can be worrying if it is not adressed soon by the coaching staff. The best example of this was his performance in the Supercup: while last year, just arriving, he was able to pass over Madrid defenders with no consideration (making a fool out of Marcelo, Pepe and Xabi Alonso), he didn’t do the same this year and most importantly, he seemed a bit scared to even try to.
The lack of confidence might be related with his continuing episodes of injury. This seems to be a problem that needs to be adressed as well. In addition, being called up for every single game of for national team, regardless if they are official or not, and often played in low quality grounds (even worse than flowery grounds Barça used to play last season), is not helping either. If we also add the important fact that physical preparation with his national team (and tactics too, but that’s a whole different set of problems) are far from what he is used to at Barça, then injuries will keep coming. Perhaps he needs to step up a bit with his national team if he wants to have a successful career at Barça. Thiago sacrified Olympics, Villa did the same with Eurocup, it’s only fair Alexis do the same. Or at least shows some concerns about it to Chile’s coaching staff.
If previous factors of his performances can be attributed to Alexis, then there are others that might explain part of his dissapointing start to the season which come from tactics. Particularly in the games Alexis took part of, there seemed to be a focus on the attack to go through the center. Wingers seemed a bit lost. That could also explain part of Cristian Tello’s last performances, which have also been far from his best. Pedro, on the other hand, despite covering the position of a winger, has the versatility of moving around and occasionaly coming to the center, which makes him more influential. So, from the tactics point of view, Alexis might be as lost as Tello, which means Tito needs to give wingers their real importance in the team. Or at least be clearer in what he will demand from them.
As I see, and reckoning Alexis’s special ability of listening and learning fast (something that is not common to find in football players), there are all things that could be improved, especially the tactics. But in the meantime, it is up to Alexis to step up and believe in his football. Tito trusts him, as he has publicly said in repeated occasions. We, as fans, need to be patient and trust Tito and Alexis too. My guess is that Tito has a plan for taking the best out of him too, as he is starting to do with Cesc.
Yet there is also a need for Tito and the coaching staff to be on top of the issue, that for now, might only be a warning, and may become a real problem for Alexis in regaining his confidence. His national team is far from what it was in 2010; tactics are not clear, which makes him look really lost when he plays for Chile. He is eager to play for his national team, but current tactics are not working. He is playing all over the attack and with no clear instructions. That could also contribute to his confusion so the issue needs to be addressed as it was when Messi had a different coach each time he went to play for Argentina.