Arsenal attacker Alexis Sanchez is still some way from full fitness, despite making his first start of the season in the win at Crystal Palace. Sanchez rejoined the squad after an extended break following Chile's victory at the Copa America but just 12 days after returning for pre-season he began the club's second game of the campaign.
Sanchez made a 23-minute cameo appearance during the 2-0 defeat to West Ham United on the opening weekend and with the Gunners in desperate need of a win to kick-start their campaign manager Arsene Wenger included the 26 year old from the start at Selhurst Park. The decision paid dividends as Sanchez played a role in Olivier Giroud's opener before his second-half header was directed into his own net by Palace defender Damian Delaney, a goal that proved to be the winner.
The ex-Barcelona winger produced a typically all-action performance before being withdrawn after 75 minutes and is now expected to play a full role in the remainder of Arsenal's season, having missed their first two matches, including the Community Shield win over Chelsea. Wenger has, however, attempted to temper expectations of Sanchez by confirming he is far from fully fit.
"He brings a drive forward," he said after the 2-1 win, according to the club's official website. "He brings the pressure on the opponent. He brings goal chances. When it was 1-1 it is no coincidence that he found the header over Ward [and] maybe it's a typical Alexis goal. More desire than fitness, he is still a bit short fitness-wise but he is a fighter."
Though Sanchez provided a winning contribution for Arsenal, the revelation from Wenger that he is not yet fit calls into question his involvement for much of the club's second league game of the season, given the club's unhealthy injury record. Jack Wilshere is currently out with a leg injury, following Wenger admitting he has previously overplayed the England international.
Nevertheless, victory for Arsenal puts their campaign back on track after the damaging opening weekend loss. Wenger believes it took character to eventually prevail, particularly after Joel Ward equalised in the first half for Alan Pardew's men.
"We have shown our strong response and we have shown different aspects in our game that are vital in the Premier League," he added. "We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond.
"We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I'm pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season."