By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes

Alexis Sanchez has not reached the heights he hit in his outstanding debut campaign for Arsenal, according to Rio Ferdinand.

The Manchester United legend hailed the Chilean as a “fantastic player” but does not believe he has had the same impact in his second season.

“For me, last season he was defining games with goals and performances,” Ferdinand told BT Sport Europe on Tuesday night before Arsenal’s Champions League clash against Dynamo Zagreb. “He was scoring goals at vital times and was the man they looked to when things were not going right and they needed moments of inspiration.

“There hasn’t been many times this season when he has done that. He hasn’t changed games. When they have needed moments of brilliance there hasn’t been that type of moment that galvanises a team and a squad.”

Sanchez has scored seven goals in 18 matches for Arsenal this season after finishing as the club’s leading scorer with 25 strikes in an sensational debut campaign that put him on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award.

Arsene Wenger has said he will give the wide forward a mid-season break to give him a much-needed rest following an exhausting programme over the last 18 months.

But Sanchez was in the starting line-up for the 17th time in Arsenal’s 18 Premier League and Champions League matches this season for Tuesday’s must-win showdown against Dynamo.

Red alert: Alexis Sanchez is exhausted after heavy programme

Red alert: Alexis Sanchez is exhausted after heavy programme

Ferdinand believes that the 26-year-old remains the team’s principal matchwinner.

“He is a fantastic player and the talisman,” said the former England defender. “You take him out of the team and who else is there left in terms of someone who can inspire the others. “He [Wenger] doesn’t have that player who can take on that responsibility.”