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'Alexis not more important than other players' - Wenger denies punishing Sanchez

13:29 GMT+3 21/09/2017
alexis sanchez - cropped
The Gunners boss has insisted that the Chilean's lack of playing time has been down to fitness concerns, not payback for the summer

Arsene Wenger has rubbished the suggestion he is punishing Alexis Sanchez for the Chilean's desire to leave Arsenal by restricting his involvement in the Premier League.

Sanchez's sole start in the top flight this season came in the 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool in August, with Wenger having used him as a second-half substitute in the home win over Bournemouth and the 0-0 draw with Chelsea since.

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However, Sanchez started the 3-1 Europa League win over Cologne – in which he scored his first goal of the season – and the 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.

It has been speculated that Wenger is reluctant to play Sanchez in the league due to concerns he is not fully committed to Arsenal's cause, after he failed to secure a deadline-day transfer to Manchester City.

But Wenger insists his involvement has only been restricted by the abdominal injury he picked up after returning from holiday following Chile's Confederations Cup campaign.


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A post shared by Alexis Sanchez (@alexis_officia1) on Sep 6, 2017 at 1:34pm PDT

Asked if he is concerned about Sanchez's focus, Wenger told a news conference on Thursday: "Not at all, that's going to very quick conclusions.

"He's been out and injured and I thought he was a little bit short physically on Sunday [against Chelsea]. I played him last night to give him more competition.

"There's no disguised attitude on my side. I just try to get him back to full fitness. I just try to give him competition and get him back to his best. 

"He had a long holiday and came back not really fit and then he got injured. But last night, you could see he's coming back sharp and I left him on for 90 minutes so he could have a real go.

"All the players are important, he's not more than any other. I used a team at Chelsea that could be strong on the counter-attack and fight hard. Sanchez could have played if he had been fit."

Jack Wilshere made his first start for the Gunners since May 2016 in Wednesday's win at the Emirates Stadium and impressed in the home side's midfield.

Wenger said afterwards he is ready to hand the England international a chance in the league but he is still not sure if he will stay at Arsenal beyond the end of the season, when his contract expires.

"I've said many times, it's down to whether he can remain fit," the Frenchman said.

"I think he's an Arsenal man and an Arsenal player. He'd certainly want to. I don't know, we haven't spoken about that. We said at the start of the season we have to see what kind of influence he can have throughout the season."

Wenger added he is happy with club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette's adaption to the team, despite him having scored only two goals this term.

"He's adapted to the team play, he connects well with the other players, he's disciplined and works hard for the team," he said. "I'm very pleased on a technical and tactical aspect.

"He still needs to adapt to the physical aspect of the Premier League, which maybe takes a little time."