LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger backed Alexis Sanchez to prove an able deputy for the injured Olivier Giroud after the Chilean forward fired his new club into the Champions League.
Sanchez scored the only goal of the game against Besiktas at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday to earn Arsenal a 1-0 win that propelled them into the Champions League group phase for the 17th season in succession.
With Wenger revealing afterwards that Giroud could be out for up to four months after undergoing surgery on a broken tibia, it was the ideal moment for Sanchez to showcase his ability to lead the line.
Asked if Sanchez could play at centre-forward during the period of Giroud’s absence, Wenger replied, “For three or four months? He can play his whole life at centre-forward.
“I bought him to play striker, not to play only on the flanks.”
Sanchez’s goal was his first since his £30 million move from Barcelona, but Wenger said that he did not see the 25-year-old’s strike as the first repayment on his hefty fee.
“I don’t see it like that,” said the Frenchman.
“He had a good game, not only on the technical side, but on the fighting side. He was mobile, dangerous, and showed as well he has great fighting spirit; qualities that will be very important in the Premier League.”
While Wenger admitted that he was ‘open’ to making new signings before the transfer window closes on September 1, he said that buying players was not the solution to the injuries suffered by players such as Giroud and Mikel Arteta.
“If you want to make anybody happy, you just buy all these players,” said Wenger, who dismissed links with Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck, Serbian striker Nikola Zigic, and former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song.
“But what’s important is the performance on the football pitch and the solidarity we have shown tonight [Wednesday].
“If you look at the players we had on the bench and those who are injured, we have players. You cannot every time buy when a player’s injured.”
Wenger also praised England midfielder Jack Wilshere, who provided the spark of inspiration that led to Sanchez’s goal in first-half stoppage time.
“From game to game, he grows,” said Wenger.
Meanwhile, Athletic Bilbao qualified for the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in 16 years after coming from behind to beat Napoli 3-1 (4-2 on aggregate) on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.