Arsene Wenger fears Alexis Sanchez is more injured than he is letting on
Arsene Wenger fears Alexis Sanchez is playing down a hamstring injury that he suffered in Arsenal's draw at Norwich.
The Chile international was forced off during the second-half of the 1-1 at Carrow Road as the Gunners missed the opportunity to join Manchester City and Leicester at the top of the Barclays Premier League table.
Sanchez laid on the opening goal for Mesut Ozil before recalled Lewis Grabban levelled for Norwich, who then created the better chances after the visitors had lost their talisman to a hamstring injury.
Having already seen Laurent Koscielny forced off with a hip complaint and Santi Cazorla finish the game "on one leg" after taking a knock to his knee, losing Sanchez for any length of time will be seen as a big blow.
The 26-year-old has scored nine goals this season and, although Wenger revealed on Thursday the former Barcelona man had felt his hamstring after netting a brace the 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb, he felt he was fit enough to start in Norfolk.
"The players are there to play football and not to be rested and not for the press to decide if they need to be rested," Wenger replied when asked about Sanchez's injury in his post-match press conference.
"He says it is a kick on his hamstring, I believe that is not really the reality. I fear it is not the reality."
The Frenchman also cited a lack of options in attacking areas as a reason for why Sanchez was selected and, after praising him for being aware of how far he can push himself in the build up to the game, was happy to trust his players' own opinion.
"At the moment we have - on the striker front - not much choice. Maybe the travelling as well to South America....I would have rested him today but he felt perfectly all right before the game and he declared that he had no problem," he said.
"We checked it (Sanchez's hamstring) When you have normal force and normal stretch there is no problem and he had that.
"Nobody is scientifically developed enough to predict when a guy will be injured. I must say with all humility we are not in a position where we can predict (injuries) despite all our tests.
"We lost Sanchez, Cazorla played on one leg and of course we lost Koscielny at the start of the game, it is a fair point for Norwich. It was, on the injury-front, a bad afternoon for us."
Wenger confirmed Koscielny was struggling to move after the game and that he is worried Cazorla may have suffered ligament damage in a challenge with Gary O'Neil, while Kieran Gibbs was left out with a calf problem.
Meanwhile, Norwich boss Alex Neil was full of praise for Grabban after handing the striker his first league start since the opening weekend of the season.
The 27-year-old had been suspended by the Canaries after refusing to be a substitute in a Capital One Cup tie back in August.
Former club Bournemouth had bids rejected as they looked to lure him back to the south coast and, although he ultimately remained a Norwich player, he was rarely given the opportunity to feature.
"If it doesn't go to plan and we lost I would probably get criticised for putting him in," Neil said of his decision to start the forward.
"At the end of the day management is about making decisions you think are right when everyone else thinks it is wrong.
"He gives me work-rate, will run the channels and retain it really well. Every player goes out there with something to prove. There was more of an edge to him and his game today, that is what he is able to do."
Neil, who could have been celebrating a famous win had Wes Hoolahan buried an easy chance on half-time that he instead ballooned over the crossbar, said everyone has moved on from the unsavoury incident.
"Really simple," he said when asked how easy it had been to put the event behind him.
"It has been fine. I have a good relationship with him, if anyone breaks the rules or does something they shouldn't they will be punished, it hasn't been an issue, we have moved on. Because that happened he put himself behind others in the pecking order and that is why he hasn't been involved - but I thought this game suited his attributes."