Fully fit Alexis Sanchez earns Arsene Wenger’s praise as Arsenal down Burnley in FA Cup
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Alexis Sanchez is ready to play a full part in the season’s run-in after inspiring his side to FA Cup victory over Burnley.
The Chile forward made his first start after two months out with a hamstring problem in the holders’ 2-1 fourth-round victory at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Sanchez set up Calum Chambers’s 19th-minute opener before scoring the winner and Wenger is hoping his enforced lay-off will benefit the club as they chase glory in the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League.
“He had a long rest now. It is true that when he got injured, you could see signs of fatigue. Two months’ rest is a good winter break,” said Wenger.
“Overall I wasn’t too worried about him on the fitness front as I kept him out. Two weeks ago he was there physically, but we had some worries about his muscles.
“He came through this and you could see physically he is ready.”
Sanchez was joined in the Arsenal line-up by Francis Coquelin, who was also back following a two-month absence after picking up a knee problem against West Bromwich Albion.
Wenger admitted he was unsure whether the defensive midfielder would be available, having decided against selecting him against Chelsea six days previously.
But he was satisfied with Coquelin’s return and said: “I didn’t expect him to be available. I thought it was a bit early for the Chelsea game, but in this game he looked comfortable without any problems.”
Wenger also handed a debut to Mohamed Elneny, the Egypt midfielder signed from Basel for a reported fee of US$7 million this month.
The manager was satisfied with his new signing’s display, although he admitted it would take time for the 23-year-old to settle fully into his new surroundings.
“I felt he started a bit cautious and played a bit securely,” Wenger said. “He became more adventurous and had some good shots on goal.
“His mobility and work-rate was exceptional and for the rest he needs to adjust to the power of the game in the Premier League.
“This was a good welcome and certainly he has learnt a lot. It will take him some time to adjust to the power side of our game here, but the intelligence, mobility and technical level are good.”
Chambers deftly curled Arsenal ahead, but Sam Vokes responded for the Championship side 11 minutes later and it took Sanchez’s second-half effort to book Arsenal’s place in the fifth round.
The holders are bidding to win the competition for a third successive year – a feat unprecedented since 1886 – but Wenger said that it was too early to start thinking about a Wembley return.
“We would love to do it, but there is a long way to go,” he said. “We are still in three competitions and we will try to get a team out every time with a chance to get through to the next round.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche believes his side’s display will help boost their efforts to clinch an immediate return to the Premier League.
He said: “We have been delivering very good performances, but it doesn’t do you any harm to build your mentality when you walk into a stadium like this and deal with the game.
“It’s a hard one for us to make sense of the performance because we haven’t won. But we will definitely look at the positives of the performance today.”