Arsene Wenger has warned against expecting Alexis Sanchez to hit the ground running when he returns to the matchday squad potentially against Liverpool next weekend (27 August).
The Chilean has missed the Gunners' opening two games of the Premier League season due to an abdominal injury. Sanchez returned to training with the first-team on Friday (18 August), but was not risked by the manager for Arsenal's 1-0 loss at Stoke City on Saturday.
The north London club dominated possession – 77% - while they also fashioned 18 attempts during the course of the 90 minutes at the Bet365 Stadium, but were unable to find the back of the net resulting in their first loss of the season.
Sanchez scored 24 goals and provided 11 assists in the Premier League last season and his presence was sorely missed, especially against Mark Hughes' side as Arsenal found it hard at times to breakdown a staunch Stoke defence.
Danny Welbeck has been deputising on the left wing position in the Chile international's absence, and has thus far not been as affective in linking up with his fellow attack partners Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette. Wenger is hoping Sanchez can return for Arsenal's trip to Anfield to take on Jurgen Klopp's side, but took some of the pressure by admitting that his talisman will not be at his best.
"We'll see how he goes through the week," Wenger said, as quoted by the Mirror. "He's not played for a long time."
"We will prepare him well. He was out with a muscular strain and hopefully he will survive the tests first before he comes back.
"He's not played now for six weeks and it's difficult to be at your best in the first game straight away," the manager explained lowering expectations on the Chilean forward's immediate impact.
Sanchez, meanwhile, continues to be linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer. Wenger has made it clear that he will not be allowed to leave despite the club not making progress on extending his current deal which has under a year to run.
Manchester City however are willing to test the Gunners' resolve with recent reports suggesting that they are willing to part with £70m ($90m) to tempt their Premier League rivals into selling their top marksman from last season.