Arsene Wenger has explained his decision to start Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United on Saturday, despite the fact he was carrying a hamstring problem. The former Barcelona forward returned from international duty with Chile on Thursday and had only one training session on Friday before travelling to Old Trafford with his teammates the next day. It is a gruelling schedule, but Sanchez was the Gunners most dangerous attacking player at United before fading in the second half. Arsenal lost Sanchez in the middle of last season to a hamstring injury and must avoid the same fate this term. Their attack has been transformed by his deployment as a centre forward however, so Wenger will be reluctant to rest him. The Arsenal boss said:
“It’s very unusual [for me to use an injured player].
“But I did it because Sanchez is a guy who can take people on and I knew that would be a quality.
“He is good in counterattacks in short spells as well. He is always a player who is not scared of anybody.”
“I think he played very well in the first half. In the second half, we didn’t give him enough service.
“But overall, for a guy who has played a decisive game on Tuesday for Chile, or basically Wednesday morning, travelled after and had jet lag, it’s remarkable that he was able to play as he did.”
Arsenal have another important game against PSG in the Champions League at the Emirates on Wednesday, a fixture which will tempt Wenger to pick Sanchez again. His side have the opportunity to seal top spot in the group with a win, which would enable them to leave their star men at home for the final group game is Basel. With Premier League games against Bournemouth, West Ham and Stoke to come in the next few weeks, perhaps Sanchez can get through Wednesday’s game and then be given some time off. Olivier Giroud has looked very good in his appearances from the bench, but he radically alters the way Arsenal play and not always for the better.
Petr Cech has been talking about the former Montpellier striker‘s importance to the team, stressing that he has a role from the bench and from the start. Giroud scored twice following his second-half introduction at Sunderland and buried a header Duncan Ferguson would have been proud of against United. Nobody doubts his obvious attributes, but the problem with Giroud and Arsenal is a stylistic one. As demonstrated in their 3-0 win over Chelsea earlier this season, and 3-0 win over United at the Emirates last season, Arsenal are at their best when their attack is based upon pace and movement. Sanchez and Theo Walcott wreaked havoc on those two occasions. Giroud’s presence in the team necessitates a more deliberate and predictable style, despite the fact he is very good at what he does. Cech said:
“Sometimes, I think people don’t realise Olivier’s qualities, because he works for the team.
“He’s useful when he starts games, but he’s also useful coming off the bench. He can make the difference.
“He’s a very important player for us. He showed again today that even though he didn’t start the game, he’s ready.”
Finally, Mohamed Elneny has revealed Arsenal discovered him because they were in Switzerland to scout his then Basel teammate Fabian Schar. Elneny joined Arsenal in January, and made a positive contribution towards the end of last season. In fact, had he been procured in the summer the Gunners might not have gone through a chunk of the season with Mathieu Flamini in their midfield. Elneny was handed a start at Old Trafford, which showed Wenger has plenty of faith in him. He is a strong all rounder but probably not much more than a very competent squad player; his passing isn’t as progressive as Santi Cazorla’s or Granit Xhaka’s, but he doesn’t have produce the defensive output of Francis Coquelin either.
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