Back in training and raring to go, Alexis Sánchez must be itching to get back on the pitch after almost two months out.
The Chilean has had a couple of setbacks, delaying his return from a hamstring problem suffered at Norwich back in November, but Arsène Wenger said on Thursday that he hopes and expects to have the forward available for selection against Chelsea this weekend.
However, nothing is set in stone.
“The doubt is that he has been out for a long time,” Wenger confessed to the media. “(The issue) is to rate the risk of the setback.
“He is clear on the tests (that’s) is one thing, (clear) in training is another. You can’t replicate the intensity of the game in training. I’m cautious with him because we can’t afford a setback now.
“The signs he’s shown in training this week are positive.”
The Gunners are top of the Premier League table ahead of the weekend but have a Champions League tie against Barcelona coming up in Feburary, as well as the visit of Leicester City.
Results without Alexis have been just fine, thanks to the form of Olivier Giroud and surprise emergence of Joel Campbell, but any side would be stronger with the Chilean able to play. If Arsenal are to go on and win the Premier League title, you would expect Alexis to be heavily involved in some decisive moments.
“I think we have done extremely well during this period where we had big players out,” Wenger said, as he also revealed Francis Coquelin is ahead of schedule and back in full training. “It’s a good opportunity to have everybody back with a busy schedule, we want to de well in the FA Cup, in the Champions League.
“The strikers give you goalscoring. I feel in games when you have 70 mins gone and a strong bench you have a big chance to win the game.”
Some games will be tight, as games against Stoke City and Liverpool proved in the last week. With a deeper bench to select players from there’s no doubt Wenger would be more comfortable with his options.
Hopefully Alexis is back in the squad on Sunday and firing before long.