LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has conceded Alexis Sanchez could leave this month as long as he can bring in a replacement as he prepares for life after the Chile international.
Manchester City and Manchester United both reportedly want to sign the forward, out of contract at the end of the campaign, and he could now be set for a final outing for the Gunners at Bournemouth on Sunday.
Wenger has been linked with Bordeaux’s Brazilian forward Malcom and Thomas Lemar of Monaco as replacements for Sanchez.
When asked by reporters if Sanchez will stay at Arsenal if a replacement is not brought in, Wenger said, “You sum it up very well.”
“Alexis is an exceptional football player, he’s a world-class player and if (he leaves) we have to find a different balance in the team,” he added.
The Arsenal boss said, “I had many conversations about him and we talked about the fact that people are always observing you with a microscope when you’re on a short-term contract, but I’ve never questioned his professional attitude when he’s on the football pitch. Alexis wants to win. When he shows frustration, it’s because we didn’t win.”
Wenger, who completes a three-match touchline ban at Bournemouth, feels the trip to the south coast is crucial as he returns to the league following a disappointing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest last Sunday and a goalless draw at Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday.
Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League and are fighting on that front and in the Europa League for a Champions League spot next season. The top four in the Premier League qualify for Champions League spots.
“There’s a massive importance for these kinds of games, of course,” said the Frenchman.
“We have been distracted a little bit by the cups but now we have to come back to the Premier League. It’s a very, very big game.
“There are two possible routes and we want to explore both of them with 100 per cent commitment. Does it work one way or the other? We want to be in there.”
Mesut Ozil remains out with a knee problem while defenders Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal are still sidelined. But Jack Wilshere could play against the club he played for on loan last term after a quick recovery from an ankle problem.
Bournemouth hope to have forwards Joshua King and Junior Stanislas available but Tyrone Mings and Jermain Defoe are still sidelined.
“Both Joshua and Junior are making really good progress,” said manager Eddie Howe.
“They’re both back for us on the training pitch so we’re pleased with that but we’ll have to make a late decision on whether they will play.
“We have no fresh injuries either. We’ve got Tyrone Mings who has a complicated injury, we thought a period of rest would solve it and that hasn’t worked. Unfortunately, he’ll have to have a longer period of rest before he returns.
“Jermain is good at the moment, he’s restricted to wearing a protected boot so there’s no massive update on him but we’re expecting him to progress in the timeframe we have set.”