Paul Merson agrees with Arsene Wenger’s decision to start Alexis Sanchez on the bench against Chelsea last Sunday.
Ex-Gunner Merson actually praised Wenger’s team selection after Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Chelsea last Sunday, which was far more impressive than it sounds.
“Oh he got it right, he got it right,” the pundit said on Sky Sports.
“Fair play, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.
“To be fair, if you watch Iwobi, he has good games against Chelsea.
“He always seems to play well against Chelsea, I thought he was outstanding in the Community Shield against them.
“They went off a base, they didn’t make loads of chances, but it was a good result.”
The boss started Alexis on the bench and didn’t bring him on until 66th minute as a swap for Alexandre Lacazette.
Instead, Wenger started Alex Iwobi on the right side behind Laca and Merson’s correct, the 21-year-old was superb against Antonio Conte’s side in the Community Shield. Seeing as Arsenal won that 5-2 on penalties and the fact that Iwobi’s only ever lost once against the Blues, I’d say it makes sense to give the forward another start.
Alexis’ exclusion despite being played in the Europa League the previous Thursday against FC Cologne raised questions over whether the manager is punishing the Chilean after he flirted with Manchester City over the summer.
Of course, Wenger denies this and simply insists that the 28-year-old isn’t match fit yet. This is after giving him another start… in the League Cup against Doncaster Rovers.
“No (I’ve not left him out on purpose), not at all, that’s going into quick conclusions,” Wenger said.
“Alexis Sanchez has been out and injured, I thought he was short on Sunday [Chelsea] physically.
“I played him last night to give him more competition.
“Look, there’s no disguised attitude on my side. I just try to get him back to full fitness.
“The Europa League and League Cup is important, I try to give him competition and get him back to his best.
“I gave him a long holiday. He came back not very fit, then he got injured. The injury plus the rest was a bit long.
“I left him on the pitch for 90 minutes so he could have a real go.
“All the players are [in my plans] he’s not more than any other.
“Sanchez could have played [against Chelsea] if he was 100% fit at the start.
“In one game I go with three strikers, the three that don’t play will play midweek, no matter the competition.”
Although Merson reckons Wenger made the right choice benching Alexis for the trip to Stamford Bridge, he believes that the forward should get the nod on Monday when Arsenal host West Brom.
“I’d play Sanchez Monday, I’d change the team Monday,” he said.
“You’re playing against a team on Monday who will sit 10 behind the ball and you need people who are going to break them down.”