Arsenal could face the busy festive period without star striker Alexis Sanchez after it emerged that manager Arsene Wenger is keen to give him a winter break in an effort to prevent the Chile international suffering from burnout.
Sanchez has proven to be Arsenal’s most important player this season so far, having scored six times in the Premier League this season along with two goals in the Champions League. With their place in the last-16 for the Champions League already secured, Arsenal still have reason to deploy a full-strength team against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday as they battle the Parisian side for top spot and a supposed easier draw in the knockout stage, with Sanchez expected to lead the line once again.
The 27-year-old has been moved to a central role this season and has flourished as a result, but Wenger has already spoken of his concern that Sanchez could suffer from playing too much football in a short space of time.
According to the Daily Mail, Wenger will look to address this concern by giving Sanchez some extra time off during the winter, despite Arsenal already struggling to keep pace with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
All three sides have more wins that Arsenal this season, with the Gunners drawing four of their 12 matches this season to see them slip three points behind the Blues. The latest setback saw Manchester United not only come within minutes of victory at Old Trafford on Saturday but also dominate Wenger’s side, and the Frenchman was also fortunate not to see Sanchez suffer any further injury after he returned from international duty with a hamstring knock that left him a doubt for the match until the teams were announced.
It appears that Wenger will rest Sanchez in the coming weeks in an effort to ensure that he remains fit through the crucial run of fixtures in January, February and March, although that will mean that the Gunners are without their first-choice striker heading into the festive period if Wenger decides to leave him out ahead of the new year.
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
1/22 David de Gea - 4 out of 10
With Arsenal scoring their only shot on target, it’s not been the best day for the Spaniard. He had very little to do throughout.
2/22 Antonio Valencia - 8 out of 10
Performed exceptionally today, looking strong going forward and defensively.
3/22 Phil Jones - 5 out of 10
Did the simple stuff well at the back, but looked slow defensively at times.
4/22 Marcos Rojo - 6 out of 10
Defended well throughout proceedings, played safely and used possession well from the back.
5/22 Matteo Darmian - 5 out of 10
A mediocre performance from the Italian. He was lunging into challenges, despite already being armed with a yellow card.
6/22 Michael Carrick - 5 out of 10
The skipper played a very standard performance today. He played his role well and stuck to his position.
7/22 Ander Herrera - 7 out of 10
His work rate was faultless and he influenced play in the middle of the park – good overall performance.
8/22 Paul Pogba - 6 out of 10
He appeared to patrol the middle of the park in the first half, but in the second half he seemed to go off the boil. He did not make many chances and lacked any attacking prowess.
9/22 Juan Mata - 8 out of 10
An exceptional performance from the Spaniard today. His goal was an example of his immense technical ability and he created chances throughout.
10/22 Anthony Martial - 6 out of 10
A somewhat quiet performance from him today, but he showed glimpses of brilliance in the first half with a number of strikes that tested Cech.
11/22 Marcus Rashford - 6 out of 10
Despite being caught out for the late Arsenal goal, his performance throughout was positive. He attacked confidently and his crossing was inviting problems for the Arsenal defence.
12/22 Petr Cech - 6 out of 10
He made a number of important saves in the first half, but was out of position when Mata broke the deadlock.
13/22 Carl Jenkinson - 4 out of 10
It was a somewhat uncomfortable performance from him today, as he looked slow and unable to keep up with the pace of the United strike force.
14/22 Laurent Koscielny - 6 out of 10
He did well in the air today, but the United attack got the better of him at times as he was caught out of position.
15/22 Shkodran Mustafi - 5 out of 10
It was an incredibly mediocre performance by the German. He did well in possession, but that wasn’t enough at times.
16/22 Nacho Monreal - 5 out of 10
A questionable penalty call in the first half was the main incident for the Spainard. He failed to show his defensive ability against the quality of United going forward.
17/22 Francis Coquelin - 6 out of 10
Made a number of important tackles, but it wasn’t enough to stop his opponents running the midfield battle.
18/22 Mohamed Elneny - 4 out of 10
The Egyptian made a few unneeded and mistimed challenges and failed to show any sign of threat when going forward.
19/22 Aaron Ramsey - 5 out of 10
He had very little of the ball throughout, and when he did he failed to do much with it.
20/22 Mesut Ozil - 5 out of 10
Taking into account his huge talent, it was a rather dim performance. He failed to create chances and feed Sanchez which resulted in Arsenal having no spark going forward.
21/22 Theo Walcott - 4 out of 10
A very quiet performance from the winger today. He saw very little of the ball and was regularly caught playing too narrow which left Arsenal with no width to their attacks.
22/22 Alexis Sanchez - 6 out of 10
He looked dangerous when in possession, but a lack of service did not allow him to make a real impact on the game.
However, should Arsenal beat PSG on Wednesday, they will secure top spot in Group A with a game to spare, and it would mean that Wenger could leave Sanchez at home when the rest of the side travels to Basel for their final group game on 6 December. With Sanchez also unlikely to play in the EFL Cup quarter-final against Southampton next week, it would mean that the Chilean would play four matches in the next three weeks, although that would be followed by three matches in the space of eight days as they take on Stoke, Everton and Manchester City in a pivotal week of Premier League action.
That said, Arsenal’s run of fixtures between Boxing Da and New Year’s Day is not as bad as previous seasons, where teams have played up to three matches in the past. Arsenal will take on West Brom on Boxing Day, before enjoying six days off until the visit of Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day.