Arsène Wenger has insisted playing Alexis Sánchez in Arsenal’s weekend draw at Manchester United did not constitute a risk and stressed he has never asked one of his team to turn out against their will.
The Arsenal manager, whose side confront Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in a Champions League game that could decide who wins Group A, appeared riled when Sánchez’s fitness was mentioned in his media duties on the eve of the tie. The Chilean is the club’s leading scorer to date this season, with eight in all competitions, but played at Manchester United on Saturday with strapping on his thigh after suffering a minor hamstring strain while training with the national team over the recent international window.
No other player has played more for Arsenal than the 27-year-old’s 16 games this term with Sánchez, who tends to push to feature whenever he can, having not had a summer off since 2013. The forward had missed his national side’s game in Colombia but, despite Wenger having expressed concern from afar, scored twice in Chile’s 3-1 victory over Uruguay in Santiago last week. Arsenal’s medical staff scrutinised the hamstring problem upon the player’s return before determining he could feature at Old Trafford.
The Chilean, wearing heavy strapping on the thigh, duly completed the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw. “He came back with a bit of tightness in his hamstring, but he was checked thoroughly before the game,” said Wenger. “I follow the instructions of the medical staff and the player. After that, I make a decision whether he can play. If they declare him capable of playing, and the player does as well...”
Sánchez pulled a hamstring in late November last year in a win at Norwich, when Wenger had previously admitted the player was “in the red zone” and went on to miss the next two months. “I have never forced anyone to play in my life,” said the Arsenal manager. “I’ve never demanded anyone should be injected to play. If a player is 100%, I make a decision. But the suggestions I have forced him to play are wrong, completely wrong.
“I had the luxury to give Mesut Özil a break because Germany didn’t pick him for their games. Anyway, Sánchez was not overloaded with games before United, either, as he didn’t play in Colombia.”
Wenger will be without Héctor Bellerín, Lucas Pérez and Santi Cazorla against PSG, with the latter potentially still at least a month away from a return to the first-team.
“Look, I’ve given a bit up on that,” added Wenger. “I don’t know how far he is, Santi. He looks like he’s making progress, but as long as the player is not in full-time training with the squad it’s difficult to set targets.
“It’s not a big injury that will harm his future, but it’s an inflammation at the back of his achilles, and it’s always difficult with inflammations to give a set time. My gut feeling is it will be short, two weeks, but when a player comes back to full training it still takes two weeks for a player to be ready to play again.”
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