Saturday 16 December 2017

Alexis Sanchez could miss the start of next season for Arsenal

Arsenal midfielder Alexis Sanchez will spearhead Chile's Copa America campaign this summer
Arsenal midfielder Alexis Sanchez will spearhead Chile's Copa America campaign this summer

Jeremy Wilson

Arsène Wenger has admitted that he will start next season without star striker Alexis Sánchez should Chile progress to the latter stages of the Copa America in the summer.

The tournament will be staged in Sánchez’s home country from June 11 to July 4 but the break in the English domestic season runs only between May 30, the date of the FA Cup final, and the start of the 2015-16 Premier League season on August 8.

Wenger, the Arsenal manager, likes to give his players at least four weeks of summer holiday, meaning any player who reaches the final of the Copa America would not be expected to return for pre-season until the week before the league starts.

Arsenal also have David Ospina and Gabriel potentially involved for Colombia and Brazil respectively, and Wenger will apply the same principle should either of those nations reach the final. Fifa rules allow nations to call up players 14 days before the start of an international tournament but Wenger said that Arsenal had an agreement that players would be available for the FA Cup final.

Of Sánchez and the Copa America, Wenger said: “That’s not good news because they finish very late and if they go very far he will miss the start of the season.”

Wenger has blamed Arsenal’s failure to challenge Chelsea more strongly for the title on the club’s start to the season and he implied that Jose Mourinho had shown him a lack of respect by calling his team “boring” for their failure to win the league since 2004.

Arsenal supporters chanted “Boring, boring Chelsea” during the goalless draw at the Emirates last Sunday, with Mourinho responding by arguing that it was far more boring to have not won the league for more than a decade. “The biggest thing for a manager is to respect other managers – some people have to improve on that,” said Wenger.

Asked if Mourinho needed to conduct himself with more dignity, Wenger added: “Everybody lives with his own internal problems and I live with mine. You can have incidents with other managers sometimes. It gets a bit heated when you fight directly with them, but in the end I believe time heals and the important thing is to respect each other as much as you can.”

Arsenal are 10 points behind Chelsea and Wenger agreed that contrasting injury records had perhaps been the critical difference between the teams. “I think so but it’s easy to say,” he said. “It took us some time to find a good balance in the team and we dropped points because of that. We faced a big challenge because Chelsea didn’t drop their level. Overall, we feel we have made progress.

“When you fight for the championship, you win some games because you smell you can do it. [The gap in points] doesn’t always represent the value of the team. The gap is the gap and they have been more consistent.”

Wenger also claimed that he was “not necessarily” looking to add a goalkeeper this summer, although his pause before answering the question did suggest that the situation was under constant review.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is almost certain to become available.

Wenger also stressed his support for Ainsley Maitland-Niles after the 17-year-old’s mother was banned from areas of the training ground after a confrontation with Arsenal’s chief negotiator Dick Law and allegedly threatening to drag her son off the pitch during an under-21s game.

“I know Ainsley very well and he has my complete support because he is a good boy and I am sure his mother wants a great future for him and to help him,” said Wenger. “There are some incidents I don’t know well and I don’t know why but the boy has a perfect behaviour inside our club.”

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