The sight of Alexis Sanchez getting down with yet another hamstring injury against Norwich on Sunday will have been highly frustrating for the Gunners supporters and the frustration turned into rage when Arsene Wenger surprisingly put all the responsibility on the Chilean striker after the match saying, “I would have rested him today but he felt perfectly alright, he declared that he had no problem.” Perhaps Sanchez could have been saved from himself, as Arsenal legend Thierry Henry suggested criticizing the Gunners boss.

It has been really a busy year. Alexis Sanchez scored a stunning goal in the FA Cup final back in May at Wembley and was running in full motion for Chile during Copa America less than a fortnight later.

He then went on to score the historical winning penalty against Argentina in Copa final, after playing six matches and 525 minutes in the competition.

He was promised enough rest afterwards and Sanchez was back for pre-season a bit late. But if you consider the matches he missed, that promised rest was restricted to the Community Shield and he was introduced as a substitute in the opening Premier League match of this season when Arsenal suffered a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham.

The shocking performance in the first match and the subsequent demand of constant results in both Premier League and Champions League have left Wenger with no other choice but to continue with such a crucial player despite the fatigue. However, even when the opportunities to give Sanchez a break did arise, they were not taken. Wenger was somehow reluctant.

While asked to justify playing the Chile international for the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb last week, the Frenchman responded surprisingly. “Because a break makes him tired,” that’s all Wenger had to say. But Thierry Henry, the Arsenal legend and a vocal supporter of Wenger was among those who have an alternative solution for the Gunners boss.

“I thought at the time, the game was won against Dinamo Zagreb. He scored, he had a good game, and he didn’t get injured. Twenty minutes to go, take him out. But I’m not a coach. I don’t know how he’d have taken that coming into the dressing room, but that’s your decision.” Henry was clearly not happy with the decision.

It’s interesting to see when pundits along with paying supporters of the club are suggesting arguably the team’s most popular player should get a rest. The reason being obvious as the warning signs were already there.

And yet, after continuing with him against Dinamo in Champions League, praise galore for Sanchez’s outstanding resilience as the marksman being painted like some sort of super-human figure. “You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not because two days later, he’s fine,” Wenger tried to justify the situation.

“You think he’s dead now. But then he recovers and gives 100 per cent again. His resistance is remarkable. He goes to South America to play, he comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

But last Friday came another fitness warning. “He had a little hamstring alarm but we will see how he recovers from that.” At Carrow Road, we all got our answer and it did not reflect well on a club which is becoming notoriously famous for its injuries.

                                                     ALEXIS SANCHEZ – LOWEST AVERAGE SPEEDS IN 2015/16 EPL MATCHES

                        DATE

                    OPPONENT

           AVERAGE SPEED

                 29 Nov 2015

                     Norwich

               5.27 km/h

                 21 Nov 2015

                  West Brom

               5.39 km/h

                 8 Nov 2015

                  Tottenham

               5.48 km/h

 

According to the statistics, it seems Alexis Sanchez might have started to play within himself even prior to the latest setback. During Sunday’s match he surprisingly had the lowest average speed of any outfield player those were present on the pitch, 5.28 km per hour, which was also his lowest speed till now this season.

Before Sunday, Sanchez’s the lowest average speed of Sanchez was in Arsenal’s previous match against West Brom; and the lowest average speed prior to that? It was the game before that one with Tottenham. The trend was clear. Sanchez in danger zone.

There is also the concerning fact that the trademark explosiveness of the attacker hasn’t been that evident of late. The Norwich game also showed the lowest top speed (30.3 km/h) Sanchez produced in any Premier League match this year. When he desperately attempted to close down the ball, the hamstring took a hit and eventually cost Arsenal any hopes of victory.

That could partially justify why Arsene Wenger was so keen not to rest his key performer, so the situation becomes more troublesome as only half a dozen attacking players have featured more Premier League minutes than Sanchez in this campaign and surprisingly none of those players are with the teams involved in Champions League.

Actually the rest could have come very soon. The forthcoming home fixture against Sunderland would have been another good opportunity to give a break to the Chilean, but now Wenger has no authority to make the decision and it is the matches against Olympiakos (must win game) and Manchester City that will be a worry for Arsenal. Wenger himself admits, he has not much option on the striker front.

But whether the Arsenal fans, who have become agitated by Wenger’s perceived mishandling of the team will welcome these sentiments or not, is another matter. The responsibility for managing Wenger’s players may indeed be seen to remain with the man paid to do just that.