Arsene Wenger concedes he brought back struggling Alexis Sanchez 'too early' this season

The Gunners take on Leicester this weekend

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger admitted that Alexis Sanchez has started “slowly” since returning to the Arsenal team after winning the Copa America with Chile this summer.

Sanchez has struggled to rediscover the form he showed after his £30million signing from Barcelona in 2014, making eight appearances so far this season but yet to score a goal.

But Sanchez returned to Arsenal training on 3 August, four weeks after the Copa America final, and he came on as a substitute against West Ham United after just one week of training. Wenger admitted at his pre-match press conference this morning that Sanchez had played before he was “completely fit”, and that he would take more time to return to top form.

“I would agree [that Sanchez has started slowly],” Wenger said this morning. “I think I played him very early before he was completely fit, physically. That is one explanation.”

 

“The second [explanation] is that every player who has won a big trophy with the national team takes some while to settle and come back to his best. These are the two main explanations for me. Physically he is not completely ready , coming out of a big achievement, and that takes time.” Last season it took 2014 World Cup winners Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker half the season to rediscover their best form for Arsenal.

While Sanchez is struggling for form in front of goal, Wenger praised his overall contributions, and said that he was not worried that the goals would return.

“I think he has had 31 shots on goal since the start of the season, and with his finishing qualities that should allow him five or six goals,” Wenger said. “Knowing that finishing is a bit linked with form, and is cyclical as well, that is where he should be at the moment. That will come back. I don’t worry about Alexis Sanchez. Even when he doesn’t score, he is still a major threat for everybody, and I am confident he will score very soon.”

Sanchez’s introduction from the bench turned the game against Tottenham on Wednesday night, and he is set to return to the first eleven for Arsenal’s trip to Leicester City tomorrow afternoon.

Wenger is also considering a return for Brazilian centre-back Gabriel, if he is not suspended for improper conduct following the incident with Diego Costa last Saturday. Gabriel’s red card for kicking Costa has been rescinded – while Costa himself has been banned – and Wenger joked that Gabriel’s lack of English has insulated him from the controversy this week.

“If there is no punishment we are a bit lucky,” Wenger said, “if there is a punishment I have to take it. Mentally I have looked at him, and he was sorry for what happened, and very disappointed, but he is a fighter and his attitude in training the whole week was completely focused and motivated.”

“His English is still not great. One of the advantages maybe of not speaking much English is that he doesn’t understand that much about what has been going on.”

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