Why Joel Campbell should replace Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal side

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Alexis Sanchez is one of Arsenal's key players, but his lack of contribution means he should not be guaranteed a place in the starting lineup.

 

When Alexis Sanchez suffered a hamstring injury against Norwich City in November, supporters of Arsenal were ruing the fact that one of their most effective players would be sidelined for at least six weeks, but during his time in the treatment room, Arsenal put together one of their best runs of form of the season.

 

Arsene Wenger's men won seven and drew two of their 10 fixtures in all competitions, with the only major blip coming when they were thrashed 4-0 at Southampton. The results coincided with Joel Campbell finally being given an extended run in the first team after four loan spells since he first arrived at the Emirates Stadium in 2011.

 

From Campbell's perspective, he would have hoped to have been more productive. Thanks to data via whoscored.com, it can be seen that Campbell only contributed two goals and two assists, but the fact that Wenger has rarely used him for the full 90 minutes should be taken into consideration.

 

Since Alexis returned from injury, however, Campbell has featured just three times from a possible eight outings and the longest that he has featured is 67 minutes, which came in the FA Cup against Hull City. During that period, Arsenal are averaging just a goal per game and have emerged victorious on just three occasions.

 

The correlation can't be put purely down to Campbell's absence, but it has exposed Wenger's over-reliance on Sanchez and his hectic playing schedule since his return just hasn't worked. In 576 minutes across eight games, Sanchez has scored just once - against Burnley in the FA Cup - and it was evident against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon that the Chilean was far from his best.

 

To Wenger's credit, he recognised that Olivier Giroud needed to be taken out of the firing line after going eight games without a goal and replaced him for the clash at Old Trafford, but the onus is now on the Frenchman to adopt a similar strategy with Sanchez. On ability and talent alone, he should start every match for Arsenal, but his statistics for Arsenal this season are deceiving.

 

Seven of his 10 goals this season came over a four-game period, while he has only provided five assists in 28 matches in total. He has also been involved in 19 games where he has contributed neither. His match-winning efforts against Leicester City and Manchester United cannot be ignored but they came in September and October. We are heading into March and he has barely done anything since the latter stages of autumn.

 

Whether he features against Swansea City or not will say as much about Sanchez as it will about Wenger's faith in Campbell. The Gunners boss waxed lyrical about Campbell's performance in the crucial Champions League encounter against Olympiacos in December and he has regularly shown flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity. The control and assist for Aaron Ramsey's goal at Anfield in January stands out.

 

If Campbell is producing in games such as the ones in Greece and on Merseyside, why has he been given just 186 minutes of football since Sanchez recovered from injury? His all-around game is not on the same level as Sanchez, but he is capable of having an impact on the side, especially at a time when other solutions aren't working out.

 

With Arsenal struggling for goals and results and with relegation-threatened Swansea the opposition on Wednesday, Wenger is never going to have a better chance to get Campbell involved again. He is unlikely to start against Tottenham Hotspur three days later, so why not rest an ineffective Sanchez until next weekend and use Campbell against a club that Arsenal should be beating regardless of whether Sanchez is involved or not?

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