Arsenal distracted by transfer talk ahead of Watford clash

Friday October 13 2017

Doncaster Rovers' English midfielder Matty Blair (left) vies with Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez during their English League Cup third round match at The Emirates Stadium in London on September 20, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |

Doncaster Rovers' English midfielder Matty Blair (left) vies with Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez during their English League Cup third round match at The Emirates Stadium in London on September 20, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |  AFP

LONDON

Arsenal's preparations for a return to Premier League action following the international break are once again dominated by uncertainty over the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

Manager Arsene Wenger has openly admitted for the first time that he could now sell the pair in January rather than allowing them to leave at the end of their contracts next summer.

Although optimistic that they will extend their stays at the club, when asked if he had placed a deadline on the matter, Wenger said on Thursday: "No not at the moment. Once you are in our kind of situation we have envisaged every kind of solution, yes."

And when asked if that meant they could leave in January he said: "Yes, it's possible. I always said that the fact that we didn't find an agreement last year doesn't mean the player will necessarily leave.

"Both players look happy here and overall I hope that the situation can be turned around. At the moment, we are not close enough to announce anything."

Sanchez is likely to miss Saturday's trip to Watford following the physical and mental exertions that saw him fail in his bid to help Chile qualify for next year's World Cup.

"I will have to speak to him," said the Arsenal manager, whose side are fifth in the table after a good recent run of results. "Yesterday afternoon I watched the whole Brazil v Chile game to see how difficult the game was.

"I must say he got some special treatment — it was a very physical game and mentally I will have to assess the situation."

DEFENSIVE WOES

Wenger has also suffered a blow in defence, with Shkodran Mustafi ruled out for six weeks after picking up a hamstring injury on Germany duty. With Laurent Koscielny facing a fitness test on Friday, Arsenal could be short defensively at Vicarage Road.

"I don't think Mustafi will be back until the next international break," said Wenger. "It's always difficult to predict the situation because the player I least expected to lose during the break was Mustafi.

"First of all, I was not sure he would play. Secondly, Germany had already qualified so I didn't expect him to be out injured as the games would be less intense. He didn't play in the first game, and we lost him in the second game against Azerbaijan at home. We have to cope with that now."

Mid-table Watford will assess Andre Carrillo on his return from international duty with Peru while Sebastian Prodl is doubtful and Younes Kaboul is sidelined.

The Hertfordshire side pulled off a shock at the Emirates Stadium last season and their chances of a repeat could depend on Richarlison, the Brazilian flair player, who has impressed in recent games.

"It's a massive game, sure, tough game against a very good team," said Watford boss Marco Silva. "Richarlison is in a good moment but all the team help him as well. He's a fantastic boy. We expect something as we know his profile.

"He adapts very fast as everyone helps him. It's not only him — the team stay in a good moment as well. He's a good guy.

"We believe the player can achieve very good things. The boy believes as well."