For Alexis Sanchez, it’s clearly a case of a little rest going a long way. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had warned that his Chilean star would be missing the start of the Premier League season as he recovered from helping lead his country to its first ever Copa America title over the summer.
Sanchez, however, came on as a substitute in Sunday’s season-opening 2-0 home loss to West Ham, having just returned to practice earlier in the week. Now, Wenger announced at his press conference on Friday that Sanchez will be in the starting XI when the Gunners take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
The return of their best player can only help a club that has once again stumbled out of the gate. The loss to West Ham in the opening fixture of the season continues a troubling trend for the Gunners, who have won only one of their last six openers.
They have started the season at home for the last four seasons but have only one win and one draw to show for it.
The win, by the way, came last season over Crystal Palace by two goals to one.
For Arsenal supporters, the highlight, or lowlight if you prefer, of the West Ham game was goalkeeper Petr Cech’s performance. The club’s only summer signing was at fault on both of the goals. He was supposed to be the world-class ‘keeper that the Gunners needed when he arrived from Chelsea.
Despite his struggles in that game, he should be fine moving forward. There are other more worrying issues, all tied to Wenger’s continued refusal to spend money to strengthen positions where depth or quality is an issue.
The first potential problem area is defensive midfield, where Frances Coquelin struggled against West Ham. Coquelin was a godsend last season, when he was brought back from a loan spell and helped solidify what was at the time a shaky Arsenal defense. It’s possible that Wenger’s move of Santi Cazorla to a more offensive midfield position against West Ham could have been part of the problem. On Friday, Wenger denied reports that the club was scouting Sevilla’s Polish international Gregorz Krychowiak. At this point, the club is left with only Mikel Arteta as cover should Coquelin continue to struggle.
Many have argued that Arsenal also need help at center back and at striker. Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace is a definite weakness at the back. It is possible that Gabriel or Calum Chambers could be a better option to partner Laurent Koscielny. Olivier Giroud is a solid striker but the club needs a player of even higher caliber (Karim Benzema?) to take them to the next level.