LONDON – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger denied trying to send a message to Alexis Sanchez by playing him in the League Cup and Europa League, and says midweek minutes have helped the Chilean close in on full fitness after an injury disrupted pre-season.
The striker made his first appearance in the League Cup since September 2015 on Wednesday, playing a full 90 minutes for only the second time this season as Arsenal beat third-tier Doncaster Rovers 1-0 at home.
The 28-year-old failed to secure a move away from the Emirates in the transfer window and injury and illness have limited his involvement to just one other full match – in the Europa League against FC Cologne.
“Look, there’s no disguised attitude on my side,” Wenger told reporters on Thursday when asked if he was trying to send a message to Sanchez by not starting him in Arsenal’s last two Premier League matches against Chelsea and Bournemouth.
“I just try to get him back to full fitness and for me, the Europa League and League Cup are important as well.
“Alexis Sanchez has been out injured, and I thought he was still a bit short physically. I played him last night to give him competition.... I left him on for 90 minutes because I wanted him to have a real go.”
Arsenal, who are 12th in the league after an indifferent start to the season, in which they have won twice and drawn once in their first five games, host 10th-placed West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
West Brom have not won a point at the Emirates since 2010, but Wenger is expecting a strong defensive performance from Tony Pulis’ side.
“They have the culture of the Premier League, a manager who knows how the league works. They are very strong on set-pieces, solid defensively – it’s tough to score against them,” he added.
Mesut Ozil is back in training after missing Arsenal’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea in their last league outing with a knee injury, but striker Danny Welbeck (groin) and defender Calum Chambers (hip) are out until after next month’s international break.