Jose Sulantay, the former Chile Under-20s manager, claimed that the player he watched in Chile’s 1-0 defeat by Bolivia was not the Sanchez that he has seen in previous years. The loss leaves Chile in danger of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, with Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side down in sixth in the South American qualification and outside of the four qualifying places and additional play-off berth.
Sanchez has only played three times this season, having missed Arsenal’s opening games against Leicester City and Stoke City due to a side strain, though he returned for the 4-0 defeat by Liverpool before jetting out to South America for Chile’s losses to Paraguay and Bolivia.
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The 28-year-old has come in for criticism for his early performances this season, leading to a firm response this week in which he said he was “tired” of the negativity being thrown at him, but his mood will not have been lifted by Sulantay’s comments in the wake of the demoralising defeat by Bolivia.
“I saw him gone, I saw him out of physical shape, totally. He’s fatter than normal,” Sulantay told Chilean newspaper La Cuarta.
“Without his spark, he never left that Paraguayan defence behind. He never made a diagonal run, it was something else. It was not Alexis.
“This can bring you problems later, the statements of wanting to leave. The team-mates must have felt nothing for him.”
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Sanchez is due to return to Arsenal on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s visit of Bournemouth, and manager Arsene Wenger has no hesitations about putting him in the starting line-up, despite the former Barcelona forward coming close to leaving the club on transfer deadline day.
“I have no doubt about Alexis’ mind and mentality, that people question,” Wenger said on Thursday.
“He needs to come back to full fitness, which he was not (at) against Liverpool. It was his first game, and he has suffered a negative experience with Chile.
Chile are on the verge of missing out on the 2018 World Cup (Getty)
“But he is strong mentally and hopefully he will be back very quickly to his best.
“The transfer market is over, there was a lot going on on that front. It’s very difficult for me to speak about that because the most important thing now is our next game.”