By Editor Wayne Veysey
Arsene Wenger should take the brave decision to omit Alexis Sanchez against Manchester United on Saturday.
That might seem barmy to Arsenal fans who heard Wenger claim at his press conference on Thursday morning that he had been reassured by Sanchez via text message that the red hot Chilean was fully fit and primed to play in the Old Trafford showdown.
Sanchez’s claim was justified by his two-goal matchwinning display for Chile on Tuesday night, when he appeared to put to bed his club manager’s concerns about his fitness after a hamstring scare during the international break.
But Wenger and his medical staff had still not seen Sanchez in person to corroborate whether he is able to start Saturday’s lunchtime’s encounter less than 48 hours after returning from south America.
Arsenal should take no chances. Sanchez, the team’s leading scorer with eight goals this season, is too important to the team’s chances of challenging for the title to take any risks with.
Wenger only needs to recall last season, when an apparently minor hamstring problem escalated to the point where the team’s vibrant attacker was sidelined for two months.
The smart move would be to wrap Sanchez in cotton wool and start him on the substitute’s bench at United, with Olivier Giroud recalled to spearhead the attack.
That should be the only change Wenger makes from the side that drew 1-1 against Tottenham before the international break.
If Sanchez misses out, Arsenal must compensate for the absence of speed and mobility up front by sticking with Alex Iwobi even though he is yet score this season.
Aaron Ramsey is pushing for a return to the starting XI after playing the full 90 minutes for Wales during the international break, in what was only his fifth appearance of the season for club and country.
But Wenger’s side would be too one-paced if either Iwobi or Theo Walcott were to drop out, which is why the manager should resist the opportunity to overhaul his supply line to Giroud.
Granit Xhaka should continue alongside Francis Coquelin in central midfield, as Santi Cazorla continues to struggle to shake off the achilles problem that has bothered him for the past two seasons.
With Mathieu Debuchy seemingly persona non grata at London Colney, Carl Jenkinson is the obvious replacement for Hector Bellerin, who will be sorely missed at right-back over the next month.
In other Arsenal team news, this is United’s expected team to face the Gunners on Saturday.