Wenger eases Sanchez back to action

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has insisted that he is not seeking to make any sort of point to Alexis Sanchez over his selections of him so far this season.

The striker tried and failed to force a move to Manchester City in the summer transfer window and Wenger has used him of late as a starter in the Europa League and League Cup but only as a substitute in the English Premier League.

Sanchez was granted extended summer leave after his involvement for Chile at the Confederations Cup and he was forced to delay his return to pre-season training because of an illness.

He then suffered an abdominal injury and his first game of the season came in the starting XI at Liverpool on Aug 27 in the 4-0 defeat.

Since then, Wenger has used him off the bench in the league games against Bournemouth and Chelsea.

But he completed 90 minutes against Cologne in the Europa League, scoring the equaliser in the 3-1 win and also played the full game in the 1-0 win over third-tier Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup on Wednesday.

As ever, the body language experts have scrutinised Sanchez and plenty has been read into his moments of frustration. But Wenger maintains that the striker's focus is on giving his best for the final year of his contract at the London club.

"Alexis is not distracted, not at all - I think that is coming to very quick conclusions," Wenger said. "He has been out and injured. I thought he was still a bit short physically on Sunday and I played him against Doncaster to give him more competition.

"Is he happy at the club? That is the impression I have, yes."

On Wednesday, a crowd of only 44,064 - the lowest since Arsenal moved to the 60,000 Emirates Stadium - attested to a certain lack of enthusiasm but the team did enough thanks to Theo Walcott's neatly taken match-winner.

But the real boon belonged to the man who walked off the pitch with his shirt off and a big thumbs up for the crowd. Jack Wilshere completed 90 minutes for Arsenal for the first time in almost three years.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger eases Sanchez back to action'. Print Edition | Subscribe