Alexis Sanchez is enjoying an extraordinary period in his career. This weekend, he won the Copa America for the second year in succession. On top of that, three goals and an assist saw him named as the Player of the Tournament.
That’s the way it’s gone for Alexis of late—particularly on the
international stage. An impressive showing in the World Cup of 2014 was
followed up by finally claiming an international title in 2015’s Copa.
To repeat that 12 months on, once again beating Argentina in the final,
simply sets the seal on things.
It’s been brilliant—but it’s been breathlessly busy too. He has now
gone without a summer off and proper preseason for three years on the
trot. Last season, Arsenal saw some evidence that Alexis’ international
exertions are beginning to take toll on his performances at club level.
Hopefully, the Gunners have learnt the lessons of 2015-16. After his
Copa America triumph, the plan was to give him a proper recovery period
and slow reintroduction to the first-team. In July of 2015, Wenger said
to the Daily Mail of
Alexis: “He will be back on August 3 and usually it takes three weeks
to be competitive. With Alexis it could be a little bit less. He will
certainly miss the first game.”
However, come the opening fixture against West Ham, Wenger could not
resist the temptation to plunge Alexis into action. He was initially
named on the substitutes bench, before being called into action just 67
minutes into the life of the campaign. So much for the prolonged
opportunity to rest.
It’s easy to understand why Wenger deviated from the plan. Alexis is a
world-class player and currently irreplaceable in the Arsenal setup.
With the exception of Olivier Giroud, no other Gunners player has
reached double figures for goals in each of the last two seasons.
Nevertheless, Wenger may have come to regret his actions. Alexis
looked jaded in the opening period of the season, and eventually
succumbed to a major thigh injury in November. If Arsenal want to
preserve his fitness and allow him to play at full potential, they must
give him a long overdue rest.
Arguably, Alexis needs a break now more than ever. There were
understandable signs of fatigue in his Copa America performances, and it
will have distressed Arsenal fans to see the mangled state of his ankle in the wake of the final.
It won’t be easy for Wenger to count his star man out of his
plans—particularly with Arsenal facing such a difficult start to the
season. The Gunners face Liverpool in their opening game before
travelling to face champions Leicester. Wenger won’t have forgotten that
his team triumphed at the King Power Stadium last season in large part
thanks to an Alexis hat-trick.
One of Wenger’s main priorities in this summer’s transfer window must
be to find a wide goalscorer who can help replace Alexis’ contribution.
He deserves someone to help share that significant workload. Having
seemingly lost out on Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Manchester United, perhaps
Wenger should consider returning to Leicester to test their resolve to
keep Riyad Mahrez.
Arsenal will undoubtedly need Alexis if they are to enjoy a
successful 2016-17. He’s clearly a player in his pomp. However, if they
overplay him they will not see the best of him. The tigerish Chilean
won’t enjoy being told as much, but he simply must rest. It’s for his
own good—and subsequently Arsenal’s as well.
Arsenal Must Give Alexis Sanchez A Proper Pre-Season; Wenger Cannot Make The Same Mistake Again