One of the recurring themes of this season so far, thanks to the Perpetual Injury Crisis, is that Arsenal can't really rotate their squad as they would like to, because there's no one left to rotate. Alexis Sanchez, in particular, has been one that most fans - including myself - have wanted to see rested for a few games now, and when it was announced he was in the lineup for Saturday I was surprised and a bit nervous.
After all, playing almost every minute of almost every game is tiring; I can't even get to max physical effort for 30 minutes without needing a couple days off, much less 90 minutes three times a week (NOTE: I am old). So when we see Sanchez trotted out every single game, and we see how hard Sanchez works and how many tackles he attracts, we get nervous, and we get upset that Wenger can't see how badly Sanchez needs a day off.
Turns out Wenger, and the coaching staff, do in fact see how Sanchez responds. After the Hull game, Wenger said:
Sanchez recovers very quickly and he doesn't look to have fatigue problems, according to our tests.
For me, at least, that one throwaway line was tremendously reassuring. Why? Because it shows me that:
1. Arsenal take sports science seriously
2. Arsenal know Sanchez' baseline level of fitness, know his max, and know his recovery rate
3. Arsenal listen to the sports science they gather, and use their data to make decisions
4. Arsenal understand that players are investments, and in Sanchez' case, they're protecting their €38 million investment wisely
But the most important takeaway is a sort of synthesis of all four of those points - basically, Arsenal aren't just winging it. They're using data to assess the fitness of their players, and making decisions based on that data. And if the data on Sanchez says he's good to go (Wenger has previously said his recovery time needs are basically nil), then he's good to go. Arsenal - and all clubs - also understand that tired players are more prone to injury, and since an injured player is an unproductive player, understand that rest and recovery are crucial, and will not do anything to risk a player's fitness thanks to a lack of rest.
Now, I can hear people out there (yes, I can hear you through the internet. Thought policing has expanded its reach in 2015) saying "BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE TESTS ARE HOW CAN WE TRUST THEM". Well, I don't really know what to say to that, but at some point you just kinda have to trust that Arsenal are a little more sophisticated than "at the beginning of the season, run a bleep test, and run another one on everyone once a month; compare those to that preseason one. If test takes longer, then tired" when it comes to protecting their expensive, nonrenewable assets.
This post is not just an example of an appeal to authority, either - in this case, the club truly does know more than we do, a lot more, and I for one am going to stop demanding that Sanchez get some rest, because it seems like the club have their players' fitness levels fairly well dialed in. They understand how long a player can play at peak fitness before requiring a rest, and it seems like at least in Sanchez' case, we're nowhere near that point right now.