Arsenal have been hit with an injury blow on the eve of the new Premier League season after manager Arsene Wenger revealed Alexis Sanchez is out with an abdominal injury.
The absence of the Chile international from the opener against Leicester tomorrow night and the following week’s trip to Stoke will only raise more questions over his Emirates Stadium future.
Sanchez has been linked with a move away from the club this summer with less than a year remaining on his current deal at the Emirates Stadium and could walk away for free at the end of the upcoming season.
Wenger has insisted several times that Sanchez will not be sold, although links with Manchester City continue.
Having played in the Confederations Cup up until the final on July 2, Sanchez was given an extended summer break which included missing Sunday’s Community Shield penalty win over Chelsea.
Now Wenger has revealed the 28-year-old will miss at least two Premier League games. “Alexis will not be available,” said Wenger.
“He has a little abdominal strain that he caught on Sunday morning in training, before he came to Wembley. He had a scan two days ago and he’s out for a while.
“I don’t know if it is two weeks or one more week, but he will not be available. I think he will not play at Stoke, yes.”
Wenger admitted entering the new campaign without Sanchez is a blow for the Gunners but said he would not have featured against Leicester even if he had not suffered a setback.
“For us Alexis Sanchez is a loss, of course,” he said. “But we have all the other players prepared in preseason and they are all ready. It can happen in preseason and anyway, I don’t think I would have included him on Friday night. I don’t think I would have started him.”
Wenger would not reveal whether there had been any concrete offers for Sanchez and said his close relationship with Paris St Germain chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi had no bearing on the player’s future.
“I can’t tell you that at the moment. I just think we are not open — what I said to you many times — to any offers, anyway.
“It’s a long time I didn’t speak to Nasser, because it’s certainly very busy to complete the transfer of Neymar and it’s a long time that I didn’t speak to him.”
After Arsenal’s Wembley win on Sunday, Wenger admitted he was looking to trim his squad before the transfer window closes. But he is no closer to shifting those deemed surplus to requirements as he believes many Premier League clubs are in the same position.
“Yesterday I had the managers’ meeting and was talking with the other managers in the other clubs. It looks like everywhere there is many, many players and a bit of congestion at the moment everywhere.”
Sanchez is not the only injury worry for Wenger, who could enter the new season with as many as seven players on the sidelines.
Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, and Shkodran Mustafi are all doubts while Gabriel and Santi Cazorla are longer-term
Add to that the suspension of Laurent Koscielny and Wenger’s resources are already set to be tested with the season yet to get under way.
Meanwhile, Craig Shakespeare does not expect wantaway midfielder Riyad Mahrez to become a disruptive influence in the Leicester squad.
But the Foxes boss has warned the Algeria international, long sought after by Arsenal, he will be made to train away from the other players should his attitude change.
Mahrez, the Premier League player of the year during Leicester’s title success in 2015/16, issued a statement at the end of last term expressing his desire to leave — just 12 months after signing a new four-year contract at the King Power Stadium.
He has courted interest from the likes of Barcelona, Monaco, and Arsenal in the past, while Roma have had at least one offer for the 26-year-old turned down by the Foxes this summer.
“He’s been very focused and driven,” said Shakespeare. “He hasn’t given me one problem where I’ve had to take him to one side and say, ‘Oi, pull your finger out’.
“The commitment and energy levels in terms of training, and the respect that you should give your team-mates, has all been there. He’s had a professional attitude.
“And as long as I get that he’ll be considered for selection and I have no qualms about picking him against Arsenal. If he doesn’t, though, then he won’t train with the group.”
Shakespeare confirmed Leicester had received a bid for the player from Roma which he described as “well below our valuation”. Reports in Italy suggest the Serie A club are preparing to make an improved offer of around €40m.
Asked if he thought Mahrez would still be at the midlands club when the transfer window closes on August 31, Shakespeare replied: “I really don’t know. Who knows?”
Shakespeare has been forced into a rethink ahead of the opening game of the season at Arsenal following Vicente Iborra’s groin injury.
The Spaniard, a £12.75m (€14m) arrival from Sevilla this summer, has been sent for a scan after suffering the setback in training this week and will miss out tomorrow.
Danny Drinkwater is also out with a thigh injury though Kelechi Iheanacho has recovered from the toe injury he suffered against Borussia Monchengladbach last week.
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