Arsène Wenger welcomes back Alexis Sanchez for tonight’s Premier League game at home to Leicester City, hoping that his best player will be fit for Arsenal’s three-front challenge over the rest of the season.
Sanchez has missed Arsenal’s last two games, including Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane, after feeling his hamstring. Wenger revealed yesterday morning it was not a bad injury – “if it was the last game of the season he would have played” – but more precautionary.
The little Chilean has already started 30 official matches this season and Wenger admitted back in early December that the player was in “the red zone”. But Sanchez’s last game was 16 days ago, his most recent start another week before that, and the manager is confident that he is now fully ready to play through the second half of the season.
“[Sanchez] had a bit of a winter break now, that he didn’t really want,” Wenger joked. “But he got one and he will now be recovered and fit until the end of the season.”
Arsenal's injury list
Arsenal's injury list
1/5 Mikel Arteta (midfield)
Like Diaby, the Spaniard is closing in on a return but the Swansea match will come to soon. The club captain last played in November.
2/5 Mathieu Debuchy (defender)
Returned in the FA Cup semi-final win over Reading but has since been ruled out with injury and Wenger confirmed he remains 'unavailable'.
3/5 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (midfield)
Suffered a hamstring injury against Manchester United in the FA Cup and hasn't played since as it has exacerbated a groin problem. Out at least until May and facing surgery in the summer.
4/5 Aaron Ramsey (midfield)
Aaron Ramsey caught a kick on his calf during the win over Hull and was later substituted. The Welshman was rated 50/50 for the Swansea match by Wenger, but it now appears that he is a major doubt for the clash at the Emirates.
5/5 Danny Welbeck (forward)
Danny Welbeck has not played since the goalless draw with Chelsea towards the end of April after suffering a knee injury. Wenger has confirmed that the injury is 'nothing major', and that he should return to full fitness before the end of the season.
Arsenal are entering a crucial phase of their campaign, with everything still on the line. They are in a four-way fight for two Champions League places, in the last 16 of the Champions League and the fifth round of the FA Cup. Far more is possible with Sanchez than without him, which explains the recent, if slightly belated, caution.
“For us it is important that he has no setback,” Wenger explained. “Once you go into February, if you have a muscular injury and a guy has a setback, you say ‘bye-bye’, as the season is over as it is six weeks out. By the time you come back to your full level it is April. That is why we didn’t take the gamble.”
Wenger, speaking before training, was not sure whether Sanchez would start or not tonight. But he is looking forward to his physical energy, given how Arsenal were out-run by Tottenham on Saturday. “He is our best goalscorer and one of our hardest-working players in the team,” Wenger said. “Physically, I think we suffered a little bit on some occasions on Saturday.”
Wenger also raised an eyebrow at Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s attempts to paint himself as an advocate of Financial Fair Play. Mourinho suggested last week that teams who had not met FFP regulations – such as Manchester City – should not be able to win titles. Wenger, though, was surprised by his new ally.
“I think we have a good sense of humour,” Wenger said, when asked about Mourinho’s comments. “The Financial Fair Play rules have to be respected by everybody. And if one club respected always the Financial Fair Play – you can underline always – it’s Arsenal. We do not have to talk about that.”
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