Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has expressed unhappiness with the way Chile used Alexis Sánchez during the recent international break, calling the length of play “unfortunate” and saying this sort of thing represents a concern.
Arsenal forward Sánchez played a total of 85 minutes worth of his home country’s 5-0 win against Venezuela on last Friday, and another 90 minutes of Chile’s 2-1 home defeat against Uruguay on Wednesday. Both were friendly matches. Sánchez then made a 15-hour-long return flight to London from Santiago on Thursday. Wenger first got a chance to see Sánchez Friday morning in training, while finalising preparations for the match against Manchester United on Saturday Evening in Emirates Stadium.
When Sánchez’s time against Uruguay and Venezuela came up, Wenger called it “unfortunate,” telling reporters the performance was of course a concern. Sánchez had looked somewhat jaded before leaving for Chile and Wenger will have to check him before the game against United. (Wenger asked reporters not to press Sánchez as “he will say he’s perfect.”) Fans with the best tickets for Arsenal matches will, of course, be in the best position to judge whether the Chilean matches had any effect on Sánchez’ performance.
If it were up to Wenger, he would ban all international friendly matches, and he considers himself open to the accusation of setting double standards — Wenger himself has no qualms playing a player all the time if they are in form. Prior to Sánchez’s chile trip, he played every minute of Arsenal’s six fixture matches since the international break in October. In the October international break, Sánchez finished 90 minutes for Chile playing both friendly matches against Bolivia and Peru.
Still Wenger has a long history of being unapologetic about his position on playing time. In his view the clubs are the ones paying players’ wages, so it is the clubs’ prerogative to use players how they want. What Wenger wants is for national teams to apply some measure of common sense, especially when competitive ties are not at stake.
Asked whether he had been in touch with the Chilean manager, Jorge Sampaoli, over this issue, Wenger said no. “I don’t even know him.”
Wenger is well aware that burnout can be a serious issue in football, particularly for players who like Sánchez are playing their first season in break-free winter English football. To make matters worse Sánchez has been playing a fairly frenetic period since he finished his last campaign in Barcelona.
Sánchez was one of the main stars in Chile’s most recent run to the last 16 games of the World Cup, thoguh they ended up losing out on penalties to Brazil. There Sánchez saw the only blot on his record as he missed his kick. After he joined Arsenal for the sum of £31m in July, he joked about the traditional difficulties with settling in — the player started in all but 2 of the 18 matches the club played in all competitions, while at the same time he began both of Chile’s friendlies during September. For Chile, he played 85 minutes worth of the game in California against Mexico and another 86 minutes in Florida against Haiti.
Playing for Arsenal, Sánchez’ performances have been dynamic, while his goals have been decisive. Seven of 12 goals came while matches were 0-0 and he scored at 1-1 while playing Manchester City during September. He has opened Chile’s scoring against Urugay and Venezuela. Sánchez is the type of player who is always eager to play but there may be a time when Wenger feels it necessary to pull him out of the fray.