Alexis Sanchez returns as Arsenal aim to bounce back from Spurs defeat
A win on Tuesday could move Arsene Wenger’s team to third in the table
Arsenal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez is set tp return for Arsenal’s next Premier League fixture. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Chile striker Alexis Sanchez will be back in the Arsenal squad for Tuesday’s Premier League game against bottom club Leicester City as Arsene Wenger’s team look to bounce back immediately from their derby defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.
Sanchez, who has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season, missed the 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane on Saturday and the previous week’s 5-0 win over Aston Villa due to a hamstring injury.
“Sanchez will be back in the group,” Wenger told reporters on Monday. “He is our best goalscorer and one of our hardest working players in the team. It’s good to have him back.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, will be out for another two weeks and Wenger had no date for the return of Jack Wilshere, who was photographed last week holding a shisha pipe in a London nightclub.
Leicester, who have not won at Arsenal since 1973, have lost on their last seven league visits to the red half of north London, and will be looking for the kind of upset they inflicted on Spurs when they visited them two weeks ago.
Leicester beat Spurs 2-1 in the FA Cup with two late goals at White Hart Lane and will need that kind of resilience against an Arsenal side who had won five successive matches in all competitions before the loss at Tottenham.
“We had a very strong run before Saturday so we just want to continue that. We need to respond strongly,” Wenger said.
“We have to deal with our performances. The criticism is always there. You focus on how your team in a position to respond well and quickly. This is a very important period.”
Arsenal slipped back to sixth after Saturday, one place and one point behind Spurs, while Leicester are bottom and four points from safety.
Leicester will have manager Nigel Pearson in charge after the Foxes issued a statement on Sunday that reports he had been sacked were “inaccurate and without foundation”.
Pearson became involved in a touchline squabble with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur during Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat after the player accidentally crashed into the Leicester manager.
Meanwhile Mousa Dembele believes the best is yet to come at Tottenham, even suggesting they are capable of challenging for the title in the coming years.
The halcyon days of Champions League football under Harry Redknapp have become an increasingly distant memory in recent years, with big-name arrivals unable to secure Spurs’ place back at the top table.
Things are looking up once again at White Hart Lane, though, with a trip to Wembley for the Capital One Cup on the horizon, as well as a realistic chance of finishing in the top four.
Key to that have been standout performances from the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris, as well as the fact Spurs appear to finally have ridden themselves of their inability to compete against the Barclays Premier League’s best.
Tuesday’s trip to Liverpool will be another test of that after a north London derby win Dembele described as the “total package” — a defeat of Arsenal, he suggests, is the tip of the iceberg.
Asked if this Spurs team, should they be kept together, are capable of challenging for the title in the coming years, the Belgian said: “Yeah, you see as well how the club works now, the feeling that they want to keep a lot of players here.
“They extended the contract as well, so it is a very positive thing because the players that you saw now that have extended their contract are very good players, young players as well, who in the future will make massive progression.
“It is a very good think for everyone. Everybody knows if the team is together for a long time, it gets easier and easier.”
Things are certainly looking up for Spurs and, on a personal level, Dembele, who has recently shown flashes of his undoubted potential.
His inability to produce that on a more regular basis frustrated former Spurs coach Les Ferdinand, who believes the Belgium midfielder could be good enough to follow Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
“As a player, I don’t think about that,” Dembele said, when those comments were put to him.
“Of course it is a big compliment and I think everybody in this team wants to be at the top of their game. Me as well, but I am not thinking about other things.
“Every day I focus on being as sharp as possible and with this manager as well, training is different than we’re used to. It’s much harder.
“I think it is a good thing for us and I think it is easier to develop then to become a better player. I know I can do better. I think we played well today but I think even the team can do better because we know we have a lot of talent, a lot of experience. We have everything here.”
Dembele certainly appears to be enjoying himself at Spurs right now, impressing in the role of number 10 behind the “unbelievable” Kane.
He praised head coach Mauricio Pochettino for bringing a “positive energy” to the camp, while saying the squad depth at his disposal keeps everyone on their toes.
“At the moment, we are playing well as a team so I think it is something nice for everyone. The manager gave me a chance and I will do everything to continue like this.
“It is easy as well with a team like this, playing incredibly well, but, yeah, I think everybody has to fight and everybody gets a chance in this team.”