Arsenal have received two positive pieces of injury news heading into the New Year, with both Alexis Sánchez and Jack Wilshere on the comeback trail. While neither will be back for their first match of 2016, against Newcastle United on Saturday, Sánchez, in particular, is now closing in on a return.
Sánchez has been absent since straining his hamstring against Norwich City at the end of November. Although he had been set to return to the squad for the crunch meeting with title rivals Manchester City last week, the Chilean then suffered a further setback in training. But Wenger has revealed that his top scorer last season could now be back in action for Arsenal’s debut in this season’s FA Cup, in the third round against Sunderland on Jan. 9.
“I think Sánchez is still short [for Newcastle], he should be back maybe in one week against Sunderland,” Wenger said in his pre-match news conference.
Also encouraging was Wenger’s comments about Wilshere. The injury-plagued midfielder has not played this campaign after suffering a fractured left fibula in training at the end of pre-season. Fears were expressed earlier this week that the 23-year-old might even struggle to return in time for England’s Euro 2016 campaign. Wenger, though, has sought to quell those concerns.
“I maintain what I said that he could make it back for February,” he said. “He will be available again. Considering you play the Euros on June 10, that is a long way.”
Arsenal have already played two games over the hectic post-Christmas period, following up a humbling 4-0 defeat at Southampton on Boxing Day with a 2-0 home win over Bournemouth on Monday. And unsurprisingly Wenger has suggested that he will rotate his lineup for the visit of Newcastle. One player who could come back into the team is Mathieu Flamini, who missed out last time out.
But Arsenal’s options for rotation are limited by several other injuries. Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky have all been out for some time, although there is now more concrete news about the latter two. Rosicky had knee surgery in August after suffering an injury while on international duty with the Czech Republic, but Wenger said on Wednesday that the veteran was “three weeks away” from resuming training. Arteta, meanwhile is already back training with the first team, but was described by Wenger as being “too short” of match fitness to make a competitive return just yet.
Arsenal go into the New Year top of the Premier League, level on points with surprise package Leicester City and two points clear of Manchester City, as they chase their first title in 12 years.