Arsenal, Arsene Wenger would be wise to listen to Alexis Sanchez's concerns
The perception of Alexis Sanchez's season is that he's struggled, given that he's failed to hit the heights of his first campaign in England. By those high standards, scoring 25 goals -- the best from a debutant since Thierry Henry; spanking in a cracker in the FA Cup final; and adding an extra dimension to a previously pedestrian Arsenal attack -- it has undoubtedly fallen short of expectations.
Yet the goal he scored against Man City on Sunday to equalise for the Gunners was his 17th of the season. It leaves him just four behind leading scorer Olivier Giroud, who has 21 in all competitions, and considering the Chilean missed almost three months with injury, it says a lot about his value to this team.
As well as the hamstring problem that kept him out for a time in the middle of the season, he also had a couple of dry spells in front of goal. It took him eight games to open his account and on his return from injury in January, he scored just twice in 13 games. These droughts make his goal tally all the more impressive and for Arsenal, all the more important. He and Giroud are the only players to reach double figures for the campaign. The next best, Theo Walcott, has a paltry nine, while the returns from midfield of Mesut Ozil (eight), Aaron Ramsey (six) and Joel Campbell (four) highlight a weakness in the Arsenal squad.
Wenger will be looking for a more efficient striker when the transfer window opens again, but he also needs more from the supporting cast. All of which explains exactly why he has to keep hold of Sanchez this summer.
The former Barcelona man has cut a slightly disconsolate figure of late and his behaviour when substituted against Norwich spoke of a man deeply frustrated with his lot. Instead of taking his place on the bench, he stormed off down the tunnel and left the stadium in a rush before anyone had returned to the dressing room. It's the kind of protocol players rarely breach and if it has caused some friction between player and manager, that would be little surprise. However, it's not the kind of thing that's insurmountable; if Sanchez is frustrated by Arsenal's failings this season, he'd hardly be alone in that either.
When you sign big players from big teams, like Sanchez from Barcelona or Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, matching their expectations is part of the package. Of course they're being brought in to make the team more competitive domestically and in European competition, but they can't do it all themselves.
Ozil has 18 assists on top of his eight goals; Sanchez boasts 10 assists to complement the 17 he's scored. They are the team's two most effective attacking talents but for Wenger's team to do better next season, they have to add to them, rather than coping with more departures. That would be like running to stand still.
Sanchez has made that level of contribution when almost everybody would agree he hasn't played particularly well. The goals are coming again but his general performances are still short of him at his effervescent best. Much of that is likely down to fatigue. He's hardly had any genuine rest since joining the club and when Wenger recently bemoaned the physical impact of last summer's Copa America, he neglected to mention his own part in that by not giving him the time off he needed.
Alexis was thrown into action on the first day against West Ham when Arsenal should have instead afforded him some time off to recuperate properly. The Arsenal manager might point to injury forcing his hand but better squad building in the summer might have offset any risk.
There is another Copa this summer, of course. The special edition to mark the centenary of the tournament is unwelcome but not a surprise. If Arsenal want the Alexis of 2014-15 back then they have a part to play in that. Build a squad that can cope with his early season absence, give him a proper holiday and let those batteries recharge.
Chances are they'll see a happier and more effective player in red and white when his new campaign kicks off.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.