Charging around with as much desire as ever, Alexis Sánchez just didn’t quite look ready after coming off the bench against West Ham last weekend.
His touch was a bit off, and he wasn’t as sharp as you would expect despite his willingness. Arsène Wenger is, however, prepared to use the Chilean, even though he only returned to training 11 days ago.
“He came back reasonably fit,” Wenger has said ahead of Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace.
“He practised for two weeks before he came back. He did not start from zero. In training now, he looks alright.”
Training is very different to a match, but we do know that Alexis was already preparing himself for the new season before his return to London Colney. That, in truth, is pretty ridiculous from a guy who also spent his summer winning the Copa América.
“I knew before the start that, once he was here, he would be difficult to stop. So I gave him a long enough break. He had four weeks off, which is quite reasonable. He finished on July 3 and he came back on August 3.”
It must be a dream and a nightmare at the same time for the Arsenal manager.
Last season saw Mesut Özil rushed back into action after the World Cup, and the German suffered a knee injury which saw him sidelined for three months. Meanwhile Per Mertesacker desperately struggled to find his best form.
Nonetheless, Alexis’s work ethic has impressed the Arsenal boss and he looks set to put him back in the side as soon as possible.
“He works extremely hard in every single training session to show that he is ready,” Wenger said. “I think what he does is, for me, normal. It is what everybody should do. You wonder if he has created a beach at home, and runs along the living room! He is a hyperactive guy. He needs that to be happy.”
Hyperactive is one word for the former Barcelona man. It is hard to imagine him very happy on the bench, and you can imagine he is bugging Wenger to select him on Sunday. the issue for the Arsenal manager is that Alexis is so important there must be some temptation to select him, even if it isn’t the right idea.
“He played 52 or 53 games last season, plus the Copa America. That means somewhere he has an instinct that shows how far he can go. It is difficult. In March, April, May, you could see he was a bit jaded. But he is still a guy who can make a decision in a game. And once he is out there he gives 100 per cent.
“This season, he knows what is expected from him, and he will do better than last year.”
For Alexis, there’s no such thing as too much football. Let’s just hope his body can deal with it.