• Premier League

Tired Sanchez faces a 'shock to the system' - Wenger

ESPN staff
December 19, 2014
Alexis Sanchez has netted 14 times for Arsenal since joining from Barcelona © Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Alexis Sanchez is in for a culture shock as he prepares for his first Christmas in the Premier League.

Sanchez, 26, has been a huge success since his £35 million arrival from Barcelona in the summer, scoring 14 goals in 24 appearances.

But Wenger revealed the Chile international has been struggling physically in the last few weeks after a busy schedule of fixtures in the second half of 2014.

Wenger backed by fans

Arsene Wenger watches on © Getty Images

And now he expects Sanchez to be challenged by the unfamiliar demands of the festive period in England, with Wenger having had past experience of nursing foreign players through this part of the season.

"It is a shock to the system, those that are not used to it," Wenger said. "They [foreign players] are all used to a break, but in England there is no stop in the winter. Many of them suffer physically.

"As well mentally, the players are used to a break over Christmas, to be with their family. The players from South America are used to going home, but of course in England you cannot do it."

Arsenal's next game is against Liverpool on Sunday - a club Sanchez was close to joining, before instead opting to move to the Emirates.

"I met his agent in Brazil [at the World Cup] a few times," Wenger added. "We could talk about the transfer and in Europe we did it with the club, with Barcelona. Once he got the decision he would like to join us, it happened.

"He came out from a period when he maybe didn't have the number of games he wanted at Barcelona. Like every manager, you convince a player that you can help to develop the quality of their game, that the way we can play football will suit him.

"That's why he chose us in the end. Also, all the players want to play in the Champions League, it's simple, and we have quite good continuity on that front.

"Every great player has a choice where he wants to go today. I'm not sure if Liverpool were in [for Alexis], but he has chosen us and we are very happy about that."

Wenger is hoping the recent break he was able to hand to Sanchez will help him over the next couple of weeks, with the Frenchman admitting he was in the "red zone" and in danger of picking up an injury after being pushed to the limit in the past few months.

"He needed some rest," Wenger said. "He benefited from the fact that I didn't take him to Galatasaray [in the Champions League earlier this month]. He has played 28 games since the start of the season and he needed a little breather. It will have helped him."

Arsenal's visit to Anfield on Sunday will be their first since last season's 5-1 mauling at the hands of Liverpool.

But Wenger is confident his side will fare far better this time around.

"We have won five of our last six games and we want to continue our strong run," he said. "Liverpool are always very strong at home, but we want to be faithful to our philosophy and play our game.

"Liverpool scored 100 goals last year. They were very good going forward. This year they have only 19, so they are not on the same trend.

"They started off the blocks very strong last season and we were too late to get into the game. Every defeat is a scar in your heart forever, but we have as well very good memories at Liverpool. We won many games at Liverpool. Even last year, we lost against them, but a week later we won 2-1 at home in the FA Cup.

"This is one of the great games. I have respect for the crowd at Liverpool and they stand by their team. I remember when we were winning 5-1 at Anfield one time; they were signing 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' It is one of the few grounds in the world where you will see that. They have a knowledge of football and I have respect for that."

Arsenal may have to keep Raheem Sterling quiet on Sunday if they want to secure a result, with the forward back among the goals on Wednesday after netting twice in the 3-1 League Cup victory over Bournemouth.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers compared Sterling to Sanchez after the game, and Wenger says he is a fan of the England international.

"I rate him highly, Sterling," he said. "Of course everybody speaks about [Luis] Suarez last year, but let's not forget that [Daniel] Sturridge and Sterling were very influential. He is one of the great players in England."

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