Wenger to give Sanchez a ‘breather’

Arsene Wenger was not surprised to see Alexis Sanchez quickly become Arsenal’s main man after leaving the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barcelona, but will give the in-form Chile forward a much-needed "breather" next week.

Wenger to give Sanchez a ‘breather’

Sanchez netted his 14th goal of an impressive debut campaign to secure a 1-0 win over Southampton on Wednesday night which moved the Gunners back up into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

But Wenger admits the Chile forward is very much “in the red zone”, having played some 27 matches already for club and country, so intends to allow him to miss next week’s Champions League tie away to Galatasaray, with Arsenal already qualified for the knockout stages.

“You have to know when to rest him and when not, but I think at the moment he plays at his peak on the edge,” said Wenger

Sanchez was signed from Barcelona in a £32million summer move after the World Cup, and Wenger is glad to see the industrious forward making the most of his new surroundings at the heartbeat of the Arsenal side.

“It is not easy in a team where you have such a dominant figure as Messi. The game naturally goes through the strong point, so in Barcelona the game goes through Messi. It means the other players become a bit more peripheral.

“You can see now when you watch Barcelona, (Luis) Suarez was a super dominant figure at Liverpool and sometimes (this season) you think ‘where is he?’

Wenger added: “Sanchez is a guy who likes big games, and for me that is the most important thing in a big player.”

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross — whose tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the Gunners’ midfielder with a double leg break — claims the home fans’ ‘dislike’ of Arsenal will lead to a ‘”tasty game”’ at the Britannia Stadium.

Wenger — who once labelled Stoke’s tactics under former boss Tony Pulis as “rugby on the goalkeepers” — believes his side must concentrate on their own game and called on referee Anthony Taylor to make sure no one takes any liberties.

“We go there with commitment, after that you have to trust the referee to make sure the rules are respected,” said Wenger.

Potters fans enjoy nothing more than beating Arsenal and always give Wenger a ‘warm’ welcome.

The rowdy atmosphere has inspired Stoke in recent matches against Arsenal, with the Potters losing just one of the last eight clashes between the teams at the Britannia.

Keeping that run going would be particularly timely as manager Mark Hughes’ team look to end a run of three straight defeats.

“This fixture always seems to generate a really good atmosphere,” said the Stoke boss.

“It started before my time I would suggest. It’s an incredible atmosphere inside the stadium for matches like this and it takes a good team to deal with it.

“For the most part Arsenal are an outstanding team but in recent times we’ve done very well.”

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