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Arsene has ‘no regrets’ for Alexis gamble

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the sidelines during his side's Premier League match against Norwich City at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the sidelines during his side’s Premier League match against Norwich City at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

NORWICH, November 30- Arsene Wenger insisted he had no regrets over risking Alexis Sanchez in the 1-1 draw at Norwich despite the influential Chilean forward being forced off the pitch with a thigh injury.

Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny were all added to a lengthy list of long-term casualties on Sunday after a match that left Arsenal in fourth place in the Premier League table.

Wenger was already without almost an entire team of stars as Mikel Arteta, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky are currently sidelined.

Koscielny was forced off early on with a hip problem, Sanchez was next to depart with a thigh injury and although Cazorla was able to complete the game despite a knee injury, Wenger described the Spain midfielder as “playing on one leg”.

Wenger knows Arsenal fans are bitterly disappointed about the loss of Sanchez above all as the Chile forward has been outstanding all season.

Another factor is the admission Wenger made three days before the Norwich game that he had known Sanchez was carrying a hamstring problem yet still decided not to rest him.

Wenger robustly defended that decision.

“Do I regret playing Sanchez? No — the players are there to play football not to be rested when the press decide they need to be rested,” said the Frenchman.

“Nobody is scientifically developed enough — not even the press — to predict exactly when someone will be injured. I must say with all humility we are not in a position where we can predict.

“Despite all our tests he looked all right. We checked it, when you have normal force and normal stretch usually that means there is no problem.

“There are plenty of players across Europe who play in every single game.”

If Cazorla has to drop out of contention then Wenger will switch Aaron Ramsey to central midfield, the Wales star’s preferred position while Koscielny’s injury opens the door for Gabriel, the Brazilian, to stake a claim for a permanent place.

“Cazorla got a kick on the knee, we don’t know if it is ligaments or just a kick on the nerve but the worrying thing is that it got worse during the game,” Wenger added.

“Koscielny is a kick on his hip, he can’t move at all, even now. We have to assess that.”

Mesut Ozil fired Arsenal ahead in the 30th minute at Carrow Road after Sanchez seized on a poor clearance by Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy that Gary O’Neil, the captain, could not control.

Norwich equalised before half-time, however, through Lewis Grabban, who was making his first Premier League start since the opening day of the season.

That was the result of disciplinary action by manager Alex Neil, who fined the forward and pushed him down the pecking order after Grabban walked out of the team hotel on the eve of a League Cup tie in September as a result of the collapse of a transfer to Bournemouh.

“If it didn’t go to plan and we lost I would get criticised and he would too,” Neil said.

“Credit to Lewis he showed everybody what a good player he is.”