LONDON — Alexis Sanchez is fit to face Liverpool on Sunday after overcoming an abdominal strain, Arsene Wenger has confirmed, handing Arsenal a massive boost ahead of their trip to Anfield.
Sanchez has yet to play this season after suffering a muscle injury in training, which did little to quell speculation about his future amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
But Wenger said on Thursday that the Chile international is ready to return to action, and that he is “very focused” on performing well for Arsenal.
“Alexis has worked very hard to be back again and he is available,” Wenger told a news conference. “He works very hard, focused and gives absolutely everything. He loves to play so much that it is sometimes difficult to stop him but he looks absolutely ready. He has not played for a long time so I will have to decide what I do with him but he looks ready to play.”
Arsenal will also have centre-back Laurent Koscielny back after a suspension, which should help shore up a defence that conceded three times against Leicester on the opening day of the Premier League season and gave up a cheap goal in the 1-0 loss at Stoke on Saturday.
But Sanchez should provide the bigger boost and could help settle fan fears that he might push for a late move away from the club.
Sanchez is entering the final year of his contract and has baulked at signing a new deal, but unlike wantaway stars Virgil van Dijk at Southampton and Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool, Wenger said that his player is eager to get back on the pitch.
“He has always been focused on his job, he loves to play football and I don’t think he is too disturbed by all the [external] noises that happen,” he said. “Players at that level are used to it now, some deal better with it than others, but I don’t think he is too bothered by that.
“He is very focused, very happy and as I told you before, the fact that he goes into the last year of his contract does not mean we have no chance to extend it. At the moment we have not managed to do it, but we just want to focus as a team and not look too much at the individual conditions of the contracts of everybody because what is important is what you want to achieve forever.”
Jack Wilshere is also available for Arsenal despite being sent off in an under-23 game on Monday after pushing an opponent and getting involved in a brawl after a heavy challenge on the midfielder.
Wilshere is unlikely to be in the squad for the Liverpool game as he continues to fully recover from a broken ankle, but Wenger defended his reaction in Monday’s game against Manchester City.
“At my stage and with my experience in football, I can understand a lot — especially what happened to him,” he said. “Ideally he should not have responded at all but when you have gone through what he has gone through, with bad tackles, it was a human reaction. At the moment he is working very hard to come back after his fracture so overall another setback would be terrible and it was a bad tackle.”
Wenger also paid tribute to Wayne Rooney after his decision to quit international football with England, saying it was “the right thing” to do at this stage of his career.
“He has given a lot to England. He’s one of the last of the great generation who had the bad luck maybe not to win the World Cup for example,” Wenger said. “That doesn’t take away that he has made a great contribution for England and what he has done is absolutely remarkable. I believe he is at the stage of his career where he has to focus on the club if you want to play regularly, and it’s the right decision.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.