Wenger banks on Sanchez till end of the season

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that Alexis Sanchez is ready to play a full part in the season's run-in after inspiring his side to FA Cup victory over Burnley on Saturday. The Chile forward made his first start - after two months out with a hamstring problem - in the Cup holders' 2-1 fourth-round victory at the Emirates Stadium.

He set up Calum Chambers' 19th-minute opener before scoring the winner, and Wenger is hoping the striker's enforced lay-off will benefit the club as they chase glory in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

"He had a long rest now. It is true that when he got injured, you could see signs of fatigue. Two months' rest is a good winter break," he said. "Overall, I wasn't too worried about him on the fitness front as I kept him out. Two weeks ago, he was there physically, but we had some worries about his muscles. He came through this. You could see physically, he is ready."

Sanchez was joined in the Arsenal line-up by Francis Coquelin, who was also back after a two-month absence with a knee injury.

Wenger admitted that he was unsure whether the defensive midfielder would be available, having decided against selecting him against Chelsea six days previously. He said: "I thought it was a bit early for the Chelsea game but, in this game, he looked comfortable without any problems."

The Frenchman also handed a debut to Mohamed Elneny, the Egypt midfielder signed from Basel.

The manager was satisfied with his new signing's display, but admitted it would take time for the 23-year-old to settle fully into his new surroundings. "I felt he started a bit cautious and played a bit securely," he said. "He became more adventurous and had some good shots on goal.

"His mobility and work-rate were exceptional. For the rest, he needs to adjust to the power of the game in the Premier League. This was a good welcome and certainly, he has learnt a lot. It will take him some time to adjust to the power side of our game here, but the intelligence, mobility and technical levels are good."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger banks on Sanchez till end of the season'. Print Edition | Subscribe