Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez scored the winning penalty to give Chile the victory over Argentina and the country’s first ever Copa America title last weekend.
Sanchez has excelled since his move from Barcelona to Arsenal, and he’s constantly reminding the Spanish champions of how good a player they lost last summer.
If Barcelona had not signed Luis Suarez, they probably wouldn’t have let go of the Chilean.
Unfortunately for them, there was no way of keeping Sanchez as a bit-part player, and his sale reportedly helped fund the Suarez deal.
The transfer saw Arsenal benefit greatly as Sanchez netted 16 goals in 35 Premier League appearances during his first season in England helping the club secure back-to-back FA Cup titles.
Key player who can't be rested
Sanchez showed his class throughout the Copa America, where Chile went the distance and beat favourites Lionel Messi and co. to clinch the trophy. He had a couple of attempts at goal in the final and looked lively even during the last thirty minutes of extra time.
His penalty was evidence of a player of the very best. He defied fatigue and was composed enough to use the “Penenka” chip to send Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero the other way showing Higuaín how to handle pressure. He’s a top class player, and Arsenal should be happy for his overall contribution in the Copa America; or should they?
Alexis Sanchez was praised for not having to settle into England, and Arsenal Manager Arséne Wenger used him as much as he could almost without rotation. This makes sense, does it not? After all, it was difficult to leave out Sanchez after his performances and crucial goals.
Last season, Sanchez himself even stated how much he loves football and wants to play every game. His teammates described him as a “workaholic” on the training field leading as an example to younger players.
Arsenal may pay for his success in the Copa America
Despite the fact that he runs like a Duracell battery with a seemingly infinite amount of energy to unleash, even Alexis Sanchez has his limits. We saw last season how he struggled with fatigue during the winter, where he had been used to a break - just like Mesut Özil.
Arséne Wenger even admitted to wanting to give Sanchez a rest, but he had become such an integral part of the team that he could not be left out, and with Sanchez’s love for football, the Chilean himself would not question the decision.
Sanchez relies heavily on his pace, flair and fitness, and his style of play requires a lot of energy. Ultimately, players like him – few as they are – will need a rest after a season to “recharge”. However, Sanchez has had no time to recover physically nor mentally yet.
Sanchez joined the Chilean squad almost immediately after having played 90 minutes FA Cup triumph - before being subbed for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - and it was obvious that he would need some extra rest upon his return. His Arsenal teammates will surely be happy for him, but Arséne Wenger would not have been displeased had Chile been knocked out early on.
The forward played 525 minutes in the tournament, and is expected to miss Arsenal’s pre-season and the Charity Shield game against Chelsea along with some of the opening games in the Premier League. He is expected to return to training on July 27, but Wenger may have to rest him this time or risk damaging the recovery of his arguably most prized asset.
Fatigue is a familiar case
The Alexis Sanchez case resembles that of world cup winners Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Özil, who were allowed an extra break.
However, they struggled to find the form, and especially Mertesacker found it difficult to be thrown into action again, even after a break, whereas Podolski’s Arsenal career already was on the downslide.
Alexis Sanchez will be missed in Arsenal’s opening fixtures, but he needs a rest, and Arséne Wenger will have to replace him during that time, and hope that the Chilean returns hungrier than ever and determined the help his club challenge for the biggest prizes.