Wenger: Arsenal couldn’t stop Sanchez playing for Chile
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he was powerless to stop Chile from overloading Alexis Sanchez during the international break, but hopes the forward will return fighting fit ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Watford.
Sanchez is central to hopes for both club and country, netting a stunning goal against Manchester United a fortnight ago to take his tally to six in three for Arsenal, who sit second in the table.
The former Barcelona man provided vital goals for La Roja in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifiers, scoring in the win over Brazil and then following up with a brace in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over Peru.
Sanchez is set to land back in London later on Thursday afternoon, but had been in touch to report no issues from the slight hip problem which saw him come off towards the end of the 3-0 rout of United.
With the likes of Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and team-mate David Silva both picking up injuries while away, Wenger hopes Arsenal might just have avoided a similar setback.
"Overall the first step is to get everybody in a good shape because when you look around, you see some clubs lost players due to the international break. Some (of our) players land today at 2pm so we have to check their fitness to see if there are no bad surprises," said Wenger.
"I cannot do a lot about it (Sanchez playing twice for Chile).
"He came off as you have seen against Manchester United with a hip problem, a problem with the rotator muscle and he wanted to go.
"He played in the last two games and we have to see how he comes back, but it is always a tricky situation. Chile are trying to qualify for the World Cup and he is an important player for them, but they will use him if they can.
"Alexis is a guy that always wants to play so I knew that was always going to be a tricky situation."
Wenger added: "Let’s see what happens and how he comes back. We have to see if we have to protect him in our next game or not."
Arsenal could be boosted by the return of centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who has been out since the end of September with a hamstring injury.
Midfielders Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are also in contention for Saturday’s late kick-off at Watford.
England duo Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, meanwhile, continue their rehabilitation following leg and knee surgery respectively.
Wenger said: "They are progressing well. Jack Wilshere is still one month away at least and Danny Welbeck at the earliest will be back (at the) beginning of January."