Chile’s plunge into the depths of the Copa America has delighted the nation, but every kick of their route to the semi-final (and surely beyond) has been met with chagrin in the Wenger residence, especially from the main breadwinner.
Seasoned complainer at the structuring of schedules Arsene Wenger voiced his concern surrounding the impact multiple international tournaments could have on the energy levels of many of his Arsenal players just a year on from the World Cup.
The Copa America is one of these bemoaned competitions and it features arguably the Gunners’ most important player, Alexis Sanchez.
Chile have the manageable task of toppling Peru in the last four and, should they get the job done, as odds of 1/2 indicate they will, it could mean that the Arsenal bottle rocket completes 90 minutes in all bar one of the fixtures his country have fulfilled.
The tournament doesn’t finish until July 4th, a matter of days before Premier League clubs report back for pre-season.
After almost 12 months of competitive football, Sanchez will need at least a few weeks off.
Wenger kept Germany’s World Cup winners Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski on ice until Arsenal’s fourth competitive game of the campaign last term in order to give them sufficient time to recover and, with no Champions League play-off to worry about this time around, he’s almost certain to afford the former Barcelona forward the same luxury.
This will ensure he’s ruled out of games against West Ham and Crystal Palace, while he may also miss the remaining August fixtures versus Liverpool and Newcastle too.
Assuming this is the case, who will Wenger turn to replace the Chilean ace?
Playing Aaron Ramsey as part of a front three is one option, but he isn’t anywhere near as effective out wide as he is bursting through the middle.
It’s fair to assume one of Danny Welbeck or Theo Walcott will start on the right, but both are too similar to start in tandem either side of Oliver Giroud.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is regarded by Wenger as more of a central midfielder and he tends to refrain from pitching him in on the left when he does pick him on the flanks.
In order to maintain balance and goal threat in the side, there’s only one man who can sufficiently fill in for Sanchez.
It’s Podolski, of course.
Due to return to Arsenal after a frustrating loan spell at Inter Milan, the 30-year-old has stated he wishes to see out the final year of his contract with the Emirates outfit before leaving and has proved himself a relatively reliable source of goals from out wide during his Gunners career.
In just 14 starts in the 2013/14 campaign, he struck eight times, while he scored 11 and set up nine more the year before.
Last term, Wenger didn’t select him to start a single league match before loaning him out to Serie A, but when the Polish-born German sharpshooter was called upon in the Champions League he helped the club out of sticky situations.
Three goals were registered despite being afforded just a solitary start, the most notable being the injury-time winner versus Anderlecht.
This tendency to bail Arsenal out and desire to fight for a first-team spot as opposed to seeking a big payday elsewhere suggests Podolski has the attitude and ability to provide relief while Sanchez is recuperating.