Eye On EPL

Let Sanchez start but give Pogba a rest

Arsene Wenger's decision to drop Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal's 1-3 loss to Liverpool is something I cannot understand.

The Chilean is the most in-form Arsenal player this season. He has 17 goals and nine assists in the league, meaning he has been involved in almost half of the team's 55 goals this season.

There are reports that he was dropped because of his involvement in a training ground bust-up. But these things happen in football all the time.

I've seen plenty of scraps during training. Players are always in different moods and football is a contact sport - tempers are bound to flare from time to time when things get physical. But they are professionals - we know it's part of the game and we move on because we want to do the job.

If the problem is so serious, then why did Wenger not sort it out on the spot? Why let it fester - to the point that it means dropping his best player for one of the club's biggest games this season?

Some might say the manager was choosing to assert his authority. Drop the team's best player to show that no one is untouchable if they are out of line. But I'd say he picked the wrong match for this.

At 23, he (Pogba) is still young and could do with a rest - although I don't see that happening... While a rest might benefit him, it could also damage his confidence.

The fact that Sanchez provided the assist for Danny Welbeck's goal only rubs salt into Wenger's wound. If Sanchez had started, his presence could also have forced Liverpool to be more cautious. Instead, they over-ran Arsenal in the first half.

Things just seem to be spiralling out of control. A lot could still happen with 12 matches left but I think they face a real challenge finishing in the top four.

While Sanchez deserves to start, one player who could do with some time on the bench is Paul Pogba.

Don't get me wrong - he is a world-class player and will definitely be a key player for Manchester United in the years to come. But right now I find that he is struggling with the pressure that comes from his £89 million (S$154 million) price tag.

And you can see that from another lacklustre show in the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth. He also missed a good chance to get the winner after a horrible mis-kick, which summed up his season.

Fans expect him to be the game winner every other week. They want him to score more goals. They assumed he would hit the ground running because this is his second spell at Old Trafford.

But so far he has not done that.

At 23, he is still young and could do with a rest - although I don't see that happening. The media will jump on the fact that United are dropping their most expensive player. While a rest might benefit him, it could also damage his confidence.

The good thing is that he seems to be forming a nice partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is scoring goals for fun.

And, in Jose Mourinho, he has a manager who knows how to work with young players and more importantly, protect them from critics. I am sure he will only get better with time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Let Sanchez start but give Pogba a rest'. Print Edition | Subscribe