Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez is set to miss the FA Cup home game against Sunderland on 9 January while leaving in doubt whether the Chile international will return to action for the Premier League trip to Liverpool four days later. The French boss has confirmed Mikel Arteta is back available for selection while long-term absentees Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky continue their recoveries with success.
Sanchez is yet to play a game for the Gunners since suffering a hamstring injury during their draw against Norwich City at the end of November 2015. The former Barcelona forward was expected to come back for the win over Manchester City on 22 December but Wenger revealed the player had suffered a setback in the recovery and would not be available for the Christmas period.
Some reports had predicted Sanchez would return on 9 January but Wenger has now said to the club website: "The team news is that, from last week, we have no big injuries, and the squad will be similar to the squad who played the last game against Newcastle. Will a young player or two start? I haven't decided yet."
"The bad news of the week is that Alexis is not quite ready. It is a precaution because of his hamstring, and it takes a few more days. He's not bad but he's not ready."
The news is concerning ahead of a busy schedule that sees the Gunners facing three key games in the space of just nine days, hosting Sunderland before visiting Liverpool (13 January) and Stoke City (17 January).
Wenger, nevertheless, has provided better news on Arteta, Cazorla, Coquelin and Rosicky. The captain is ready to comeback against Sunderland after he played 45 minutes for the Under 21 side in their victory over Blackburn Rovers on 5 January.
Meanwhile, Cazorla and Coquelin are "doing well" in their recoveries after the Spaniard was ruled out for between three and four months after he underwent a knee operation in December.
"Nothing's changed [from the original timescale] with Santi. It could be a bit shorter with him because he's often quicker [to recover] than you expect him to be," Wenger said. "Cazorla and Coquelin are doing well. Tomas Rosicky is not far, he's back in full training next week, so should be available soon. Mikel is available."
Meanwhile, Wenger has suggested he is not going to rest too many players for the game against Sunderland, as the Gunners are determined to revalidate their title. He added: "The thinking is to give absolutely everything to qualify. We are the holders of the cup and I know as well by experience that it is very important that you get in the competition and that you have a successful third round. It's a tricky one, always, the third round."