Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is in Barcelona to deal with his court case over alleged tax fraud but will return to full training before Monday’s FA Cup game against Sutton United, Arsene Wenger has said.
Sanchez was pictured flying out of Heathrow on Thursday, leading to speculation he had been given time off after Arsenal’s 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday.
But Wenger said he was merely dealing with his legal issues, after pleading guilty last month to defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of almost €1 million by concealing part of what he earned from image rights during his time at Barcelona.
“He has a court case in Barcelona and he will be back in training tomorrow,” Wenger told a news conference when asked about Sanchez’s whereabouts.
Wenger insisted he will play “a normal team” against Sutton on Monday despite facing fifth-tier opposition as the Gunners try to put the Bayern result behind them.
Laurent Koscielny is likely to miss the game after exiting Wednesday’s match with a hamstring problem. Wenger said the France centre-back was having a scan later on Friday, and it was still unclear how long he will be sidelined for.
Wenger rested Sanchez for the team’s third-round win over Preston North End but he came off the bench for the final 30 minutes of the 4-0 victory over Southampton in the previous round. Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Petr Cech were all rested for both games.
Teenagers Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both started at Southampton, and Wenger hinted they could do so again at Sutton.
“Yes, I gave them a chance because I think they deserved to play and have a good opportunity to come in for players who usually play,” he said. “And I think they have done well and one or two might have another chance to say that he can play in every single game now.”
Arsenal have a two-week break from competition after Monday as their Premier League game against Southampton has been postponed because of the EFL Cup final, so Wenger could afford to field a strong lineup.
The FA Cup is arguably the team’s only remaining chance of a trophy, with the Gunners 10 points off the pace in the Premier League, but Wenger said the recent setbacks won’t affect his team selection.
“I always had in my head that it was a very important game. In my head I’ve had a team that will start and play there for a week or 10 days now,” he said. “That result we had at Bayern Munich will not influence that selection.”.