Ahead of Arsenal’s visit to high-flying Leicester City on Saturday, Arsene Wenger has backed Alexis Sánchez to quickly rediscover his goal-scoring form. The Chilean was Arsenal’s top scorer in his first season at the Emirates last term, but has yet to get off the mark this time around after leading his country to Copa America glory over the summer.
Wenger has admitted that he perhaps erred by throwing Sánchez back into first-team action before he had fully gotten back up to fitness after a late return in preseason, but does not expect the forward’s lack of goals to last too much longer.
“I played him very early before he was completely fit, physically,” the boss said. “That is one explanation [for his form]. “The second is that every player who has won a big trophy with his national team takes some while again to settle and come back to his best. These are the two main explanations for me.
“I think he has had 31 shots on goal since the start of the season and with his finishing qualities that should allow him five to six goals. Knowing that the finishing is a bit linked with your form and it is a bit cyclic as well, that is where he should be at the moment. That will come back, I don’t worry for Alexis Sánchez. Even when he doesn’t score he is still a major threat for everybody and I am confident he will score very soon.”
Sánchez was a second-half substitute and played a role in Mathieu Flamini’s second goal in a 2-1 victory at north London rivals Tottenham in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. The win was particularly welcome after back-to-back defeats, including a 2-0 reversal at the hands of Chelsea last weekend. It was an overall bad afternoon for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, with Gabriel and Santi Cazorla being sent off. While Cazorla is now available to return after already serving his one-match ban for two bookings, Gabriel will have to sit out the trip to the King Power Stadium.
The Brazilian defender saw his red card for an altercation with Diego Costa overturned but on Friday was handed a one-game suspension after admitting a charge of improper conduct for failing to leave the field swiftly enough following his dismissal.
Meanwhile, Per Mertesacker will be available after the German made his return from a virus against Tottenham. The lanky center-back is now set to be among those charged with attempting to stop arguably the Premier League’s star performer so far this season. Riyad Mahrez has already scored five goals and added three assists to propel Leicester to a position few expected at the start of the campaign following the exit of manager Nigel Pearson and appointment of former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri. But against all odds, they go into Saturday’s contest in fourth place, two points above Arsenal, having yet to taste defeat this season.
Their strong form continued in the Capital One Cup third round on Tuesday when beating West Ham 2-1 in extra time. And Ranieri believes the positive mood on the training ground has played a big role in the team’s performances.
“My players come to the training ground with a laugh, but when we work, they’re very serious,” he said, according to Leicester City’s official website. “If you go into your job and you are sad and not happy then you don’t work very well.
“I think the players know me very well now. Slowly, they understand my philosophy. I want to joke, but when we work, I change my face and my voice and they understand that now is the right moment to work.”
Ranieri is set to have to do without winger Nathan Dyer on Saturday, while Arsenal will be missing Francis Coquelin. The defensive midfielder has failed to recover from a knee injury, although Wenger insists the problem is not serious.
Kickoff time: 10 a.m. EDT
TV channel: USA
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra