Arsenal duo Ozil, Sanchez in line for Chelsea

Arsenal’s key creators Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez could both return from injury for Sunday’s Premier League clash with champions Chelsea, manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday.

German playmaker Ozil missed last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Stoke City with a minor foot injury, but Wenger said that he would be available for the London derby at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger is also hopeful that Sanchez will be able to feature for the first time since succumbing to a hamstring problem at Norwich City on November 29, although the Chilean is not certain to be involved.

“The good news is that Ozil certainly will be available,” Wenger told his pre-game press conference at the Arsenal training ground.

“Sanchez, the next two days will be decisive, but this time, I think he will make it for selection.”

On Sanchez, Wenger added: “The doubt is about him having been out for a long time, and the risk of a setback.

“To be clear on all the tests is one thing. To be clear after training is another. The intensity of a big game you can never replicate in training, but you can make the risk minimal.

“I’m cautious with him because we cannot afford a setback, which would mean a very long period out. We don’t want to take this risk. The signs he’s shown in training this week are positive.”

Wenger said that midfielder Francis Coquelin had returned to full training on Thursday following a knee injury.

Striker Danny Welbeck (knee) is due back in training next week and midfielder Tomas Rosicky is scheduled to play for Arsenal’s under-21 side on Friday as he pursues his recovery from a knee injury of his own.

Arsenal top the table on goal difference from Leicester City, with Manchester City a point back in third place. Chelsea are 19 points adrift in 14th.

Wenger also said that he would happily help UK Anti-doping after the agency’s chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, said on Wednesday that she wanted to speak to him about comments he has made about doping in the past.

Wenger, 66, said in November that football had a doping problem and accused European governing body UEFA of not doing enough to stamp it out.

“I have more desire than time, but I’m more than happy to help if I can in clarifying things for people who want to fight against doping,” he said on Thursday.

“I’ve said what I have to say. In football, in our job, we look like we want to tackle the problem now. For a long period it looks to me like we didn’t.

“I am available. We have to tackle doping and fight against it, you and me. I am not thinking I can do more than people responsible to do that, but if they need to talk to me, I’m available.”

He added: “I’m sure that not one club in England is trying to dope its players.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal in search of derby delight despite Sanchez setback

Per Mertesacker remains confident Arsenal can overcome north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur this weekend although Alexis Sanchez will be absent from the Gunners’ line-up.

Sanchez has been ruled out of Saturday’s trip to White Hart Lane after failing to recover from the hamstring that kept him out of Arsenal’s comfortable 5-0 victory over Aston Villa last weekend.

The loss of the Chile forward is a blow to Arsene Wenger’s side as they attempt to repeat their success in last season’s corresponding fixture in March.

While Arsenal make the short journey to the home of their nearest neighbours and fiercest rivals full of confidence after an impressive recent run, Spurs are also heading into the game in good form.

Gunners centre-back Mertesacker knows Mauricio Pochettino’s men will present a testing challenge as Wenger’s side attempt to extend their run of five straight victories.

But the Germany international believes the key will be whether Arsenal can maintain their defensive solidity that has produced four clean-sheets in their last five games and left them level on points with fourth-placed Southampton heading into this weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures.

“We know from recent years that defensive unity is vital especially against our north London rivals, so we have to be really cautious on the defensive front,” Mertesacker said.

“We did very well last season, as we scored very early and then defended well until the end, so it’s going to be the target for this year.”

Arsenal have reacted well to the New Year’s Day defeat by Southampton and their sequence of victories have moved the Emirates Stadium club back to the brink of the top four and in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Only goal difference is keeping Arsenal out of the Champions League places at present, with Tottenham one place and two points behind.

The loss of Sanchez will be partly eased by the return of Danny Welbeck to the squad for the first time since the former Manchester United forward featured in the victory over West Ham in late December.

Arsenal manager Wenger said: “The latest is that Alexis is not ready. He is not far away, the Leicester game is a possibility. He is of course very difficult to keep quiet! He is training but it’s light training.

“Welbeck is back in the group,” the Frenchman added. “Apart from that we have the same squad available as last week.”

– Adebayor uncertainty –

Tottenham’s build-up to the match has been overshadowed by a row over the future of striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

The Togo forward was keen to leave White Hart Lane and join West Ham United but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy refused to sanction the move.

Adebayor has found himself out of Pochettino’s line-up but the manager is happy to put the uncertainty surrounding the future of the forward and a number of other fringe players behind him.

“Always when the window arrives always different situations and different things happen, but now it is good because it’s finished and we all need to be focused to try to help the team,” said Spurs boss Pochettino.

“The players are focused and try to help,” the Argentinian added.

“I’m very happy. We have a very good squad.”

The future of Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid target Hugo Lloris has also been questioned but Pochettino is convinced the France goalkeeper will stay with Spurs.

“Hugo is happy here with us,” he said. He is very happy. It is difficult for this type of club to get him because Hugo is happy here.

“He is happy here and maybe in the future, in his mind, he is playing in the Champions League with Tottenham.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Sanchez carries Arsenal hopes of Etihad upturn

Arsenal will look to in-form Alexis Sanchez when they attempt to repair a sequence of diminishing returns at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday.

Sanchez scored two goals and made another in Arsenal’s 3-0 home win over Stoke City last weekend, taking him to 12 goals and eight assists for the campaign and moving City manager Manuel Pellegrini to describe him as “the best player in England”.

The Chilean’s unerring finishing and exemplary work ethic will be central to Arsenal’s hopes of success at the Etihad, where fortune has deserted them ever since City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour in 2008.

In the years since the Emirati billionaire’s acquisition of City, Arsenal have won one, drawn one and lost five of the seven matches they have played at the Etihad in all competitions.

Before that, they had won six of their seven previous trips to City.

Their most recent visit, in December 2013, was infamous, as the title aspirations of a team who went into the match top of the table were ruthlessly torn apart in a humbling 6-3 defeat.

Arsene Wenger’s side ultimately finished seven points off the pace as City were crowned champions. Ahead of Sunday’s game they are 11 points behind City, and 13 shy of leaders Chelsea.

Arsenal’s fans have learnt to associate Sheikh Mansour with the sight of departing stars, as Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have all left the Emirates Stadium for City in recent years.

But now that Wenger no longer has to weigh the need for new recruits against the cost of building the Emirates, the long-held dream of attracting superstars such as Sanchez to the club has become reality.

Only Sergio Aguero, with 19, has scored more goals this season than the 18 Sanchez has mustered in all competitions and with the City striker in line to make his first start since December 3 after a knee injury, the stage is set for a showdown between the two 26-year-old South Americans.

– ‘World-class’ –

“There are some other great players, but Sanchez and Aguero are two of the best performing since the start of the season,” said Wenger.

“Aguero has been less consistent because he’s been injured more — in the last year he has suffered from being a bit in and out — but of course he is a world-class player.”

If there is one area where Aguero has the edge over Sanchez, it is his record against the big clubs.

Since joining City from Atletico Madrid in July 2011, the Argentina striker has scored six times against Manchester United, three times against Chelsea, three times against Liverpool and three times against Arsenal, including in the 2-2 draw between the sides last September.

It is too early to compare Sanchez’s record to Aguero’s, but in the five matches he has played against last season’s top six, he has found the net only once.

It is an unwelcome echo of Arsenal’s record against the top sides, for since the 2012-13 season, they have won only one of the 12 league games they have played against teams who went on to finish in the top four.

With a trip to Chelsea awaiting in two weeks, Aguero may not start, but he is certain to feature at some point after Pellegrini revealed he was “100 percent fit”.

City midfielder Nasri will be unable to face his former club after sustaining a calf injury, while Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony are both at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

Left-back Kieran Gibbs has been passed fit for Arsenal after a heel problem while Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil are also in contention.

But Arsenal remained beset by injury problems, with Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arterta and Abou Diaby all currently sidelined.

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger relieved as Sanchez sets pace

Arsene Wenger believes Alexis Sanchez’s tireless display in Arsenal’s FA Cup win against Hull proves the Chile forward has the stamina to lead the Gunners’ challenge for silverware.

Despite playing three times in seven days over the festive period, Sanchez looked remarkably fresh as he helped the holders kick off their defence of the Cup with a 2-0 third round success at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger had considered resting Sanchez against the Tigers but, with a victory essential after last week’s lacklustre defeat at Southampton, he felt the former Barcelona star would be a vital presence.

Sanchez repaid Wenger’s faith by delivering the corner that set up Per Mertesacker’s first half opener and he capped a lively performance with a fine finish from the edge of the penalty area in the closing stages.

The 26-year-old has now scored 16 times in his debut season with the Gunners and Wenger is confident that, unlike many foreign stars who struggle to adapt to the gruelling demands of English football, Sanchez will still be going strong when the trophies are handed out in May.

“He always looked dangerous,” Wenger said. “He is incisive, penetrating and has a good change of direction. He is interesting to watch because he has a good fighting spirit as well.

“I was tempted to rest him but I knew it was an important game for us and he seemed ready.

“I hope we can keep this level of energy for the whole season. When a player is confident it is important to keep them playing.

“He has the physical potential to recover very quickly and our tests show he doesn’t seem to have any fatigue problems.”

– Clinical Gunners –

After a frustratingly inconsistent first half of the season, Wenger knew Arsenal could ill-afford another setback on Sunday and he took heart from the clinical way his players stuck to the task of killing off lacklustre Hull.

“I believe we had a serious performance. We were in control. It is a positive game because we created many chances,” Wenger said.

“It took us a while to get the second goal so you never know what can happen but overall we had a good performance.”

Wenger was also pleased Theo Walcott made his first start for a year as the England winger stepped up his recovery from a serious knee injury sustained against Tottenham in the FA Cup third round last season.

Walcott lasted 76 minutes, showing a few glimpses of his blistering pace and prompting Wenger to say: “There were some positive signs, he was dangerous.

“He has not lost the quality of his runs. He lacks a little the competition because he has been out for a year, but what he has done today after being out so long is quite positive.”

Just eight months after suffering the heartache of blowing a two-goal lead in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, this was a tame exit for Hull.

Manager Steve Bruce made 10 changes after deciding the fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League was more important than another cup run.

“It is a fair result, we huffed and puffed but didn’t have any cutting edge to make the cup tie come alive,” Bruce said.

“It was a big ask to come to the Emirates after three games in six days.

“It wasn’t a case of disrespecting the cup because we had one of the best days of our lives in the competition last year.”

With the survival fight in mind, Bruce reaffirmed his interest in signing former Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe from FC Toronto.

“Most clubs in our position would like a player like Jermain,” he said.

“If there is a chance, we would be interested in him, but I don’t want to get the hopes up of all the Hull supporters. He might be too expensive.”

Arsenal Star Becomes A Father After Cheating On Girlfriend

Reports in the Spanish press claim that Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez has become a father, while also revealing that the mother is not his long-term partner Laia Grassi.

The woman who gave birth earlier on Wednesday, was in fact Mary Plaza, who the Chilean midfielder supposedly slept with last year when cheating on Grassi, caughtoffside.com reports.

According to the report, Sanchez and Plaza are not on the best of terms, and the 25-year-old is refusing to acknowledge that the baby is his, while he remains with his current girlfirned.

It is suggested that Plaza also has little intention of pursuing Alexis to take responsibility for the baby, as she is from a very wealthy family as her grandfather was one of the founders of giants football club Barcelona.

Arsenal Star Becomes A Father After Cheating On Girlfriend

Reports in the Spanish press claim that Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez has become a father, while also revealing that the mother is not his long-term partner Laia Grassi.

The woman that gave birth earlier on Wednesday, was in fact Mary Plaza, who the Chilean midfielder supposedly had a fling with last year when cheating on Grassi, caughtoffside.com reports.

According to the report, Sanchez and Plaza are not on the best of terms, and the 25-year-old is refusing to acknowledge that the baby is his, while he remains with his current girlfriend.

It is suggested that Plaza also has little intention of pursuing Alexis to take responsibility for the baby, as she is from a very wealthy family with her grandfather having been one of the founders of Spanish football club Barcelona.