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Saturday 21 October 2017

Arsenal dealt blow as Alexis Sanchez misses Premier League opener

Alexis Sanchez has been out with an abdominal injury
Alexis Sanchez has been out with an abdominal injury

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 on Friday 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 Friday's Premier League clash at home to Leicester as well as the trip to Stoke the following weekend.

"Alexis will not be available," Wenger said when asked about team news ahead of the visit of the Foxes.

"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 set-back.

"For us Alexis Sanchez is a loss, of course," he said.

"But we have all the other players prepared in pre-season and they are all ready. It can happen in pre-season and anyway, I don't think I would have included him on Friday night. I don't think I would have started him."

Sanchez's initial return to training was delayed by three days as he had an illness but his extended absence from the team will only flame the fires of speculation over his future.

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 baring on the player's future.

Asked by Press Association Sport if any bids had been lodged for Sanchez, the Frenchman replied: "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."

Pushed on whether he expected Al-Khelaifi to get in touch, he added: "No, no. I think if you read the French papers, they are on (Kylian) Mbappe's case to finish their transfer market."

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.

"No," he replied when asked whether any players are closer to departing the club.

"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 absentees.

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.

Press Association

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