Thursday 27 October 2016

Blow for Arsenal as Alexis Sanchez to miss start of season

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez will miss the start of Arsenal’s new season after helping Chile to win the Copa America for the first time in 99 years.

The core of the Arsenal squad returns for pre-season training later this week, including their new £10 million goalkeeper Petr Cech, but Sanchez will now be given three weeks off after playing in all six of Chile’s matches in their victorious Copa America campaign.

He is now due to return back to club training on July 27, less than a week before the Community Shield match against Premier League champions Chelsea and less than a fortnight before the Premier League itself starts. There is still a small possibility of Sanchez being named a substitute for the Community Shield against Chelsea but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has proved repeatedly that he will not rush players back from their holidays.

Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski were all eased back after Germany’s World Cup win last year and Wenger is especially conscious of Sanchez’s wide programme.

Sanchez played 52 times for Arsenal last season, scoring 25 goals in his first year in English football, after also featuring for Chile in the knockout phase of the World Cup.

With the Cech deal complete, Wenger’s main off-field focus relates to potential departures as well as contract negotiations for existing players. Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell, Mathieu Flamini, David Opsina and Carl Jenkinson are all available at the right price but Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott are expected to sign contract extensions.

With Wenger having rebuffed the suggestion of including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Cech deal and also intending to turn down any bid from Manchester City for Jack Wilshere, the central midfield position has become far less of a priority.

Wenger had identified Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin as his priority signing back in January but the emergence of Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, as well as Aaron Ramsey’s and Wilshere’s strong finishes to the season, has made him review the situation.

Schneiderlin is now likely to join Manchester United while Wenger is expected to assess his players in pre-season and potentially also the first few weeks of the new campaign before deciding if he still wants another central midfielder.

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