The Chilean superstar has been the Gunners’ most consistent attacking force this season but his manager insists that he had always planned to rest him at this point
Arsene Wenger will rest Alexis Sanchez when Arsenal travel to Preston North End in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday because he believes that his star forward is “jaded” and “tired”.
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Alexis has impressed with 15 goals in 26 appearances across all competitions this season and his instinctive header sparked the Gunners’ comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Wenger feels that it is important to take the Chile international out of the firing line as he deals with a gruelling schedule for club and country.
“Alexis wants always to play and, on one side, when I don’t play him, people say ‘why don’t you play him?’ and, on the other hand, I am criticised for using him too much,” the Arsenal boss told reporters.
“But I always planned in my head, no matter what happens, that in January he will need a breather.
“What we forget is that, when they go away for international games, they travel to Chile. Then they play sometimes 2,000 miles away, they travel back and then they come here and play the next day again.
“They are human beings – you have to give them a breather at some stage. Mentally and physically [Alexis needs a rest] because at the moment he is a bit jaded. You can see that he is tired.”
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Amid growing speculation over whether or not the former Barcelona forward will sign an extended contract at the Emirates Stadium, Alexis reacted furiously as Arsenal failed to claim more than a share of the spoils against Bournemouth.
Wenger has no problems with such a public display of emotion, nor his forward’s vocal exchange of views with Aaron Ramsey, and he insists that the dressing room is not lacking a collective will to win.
“That’s part of football. You had the same on the pitch when Tottenham played Chelsea,” he said in reference to a row between Blues duo Diego Costa and Pedro at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
“We live in a world where you want action. I don’t look too much at how people talk, I look at how much they want to win.
“In this job I have seen a lot between players. The only difference now is it is all analysed and all on camera. In fact, much less happens than before.
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“Today everybody is camera-conscious a little bit. Before, in the corridors before the game or after the game, a lot more happened. Today nothing happens any more.
“How many times have you walked in and it is ‘come on, cool down’? That is not the case any more. When something happens like that people are surprised but, for me, that is part of the game.
“The other players care as much as [Alexis] does, don’t worry. Everybody has his way. The players were frustrated. There was no celebration in the dressing-room; everybody was disappointed that they didn’t win the game.
“There is no hierarchy of intensity or desire to win at that level. Everybody wants to win.”