Alexis Sanchez move in January not ruled out by Arsenal boss Wenger
LONDON -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has left open the prospect of Alexis Sanchez leaving this month, but insisted that the club would not let him leave without signing a replacement first.
Sanchez is being targeted by Premier League leaders Manchester City in the January transfer window despite the Chile forward becoming a free agent at the end of the season when his contract expires. Sources have told ESPN FC that Manchester United will monitor Sanchez's situation this month but Old Trafford chiefs still expect him to sign for City.
Wenger didn't deny those claims at his news conference on Friday, or rule out the prospect of a January move, but said he couldn't disclose anything about the discussions being held about Sanchez.
"Honestly I cannot tell you much more at the moment about this situation, because nothing is really concrete at the moment," he said. "It's not that I don't want to inform you, I don't want to give you wrong information. And at the moment, I must say nothing is decided one way or the other.
"Normally he would stay at the club until the end of the season but we'll see."
Asked if a bidding war would be beneficial to Arsenal, Wenger replied: "A bidding war is always beneficial to the club that can take advantage of it, but we're not in that... Normally he should stay until the end of the season, but we'll see."
Arsenal came close to selling Sanchez to City in August, but the deal fell through when the club failed to sign Monaco's Thomas Lemar as a replacement. And Wenger confirmed that finding a replacement is still a prerequisite for letting the forward leave this month.
"Yeah it's [still] the case now," he said. "You sum it up very well."
One player who has been mentioned as a possible replacement is Bordeaux's Brazilian forward Malcom, but Wenger downplayed those reports as well.
"He's a good player, but at the moment, there as well, nothing is happening," he said. "We are not on that case at the moment."
Sanchez was Arsenal's leading scorer last season and would leave a massive hole in the squad if he does leave, despite his form having dipped in recent months. Wenger did insist, though, that there are ways to replace the Chilean.
"Is he replaceable in the way that if that happens, do we find exactly the same player? Certainly not. But there's always a way to find a different balance," he said. "Sanchez is an exceptional football player, he is a world class player. If that happens, we have to find a different balance in the team."
Arsenal travel to Bournemouth on Sunday in the Premier League, a fixture that finished 3-3 last season after the Gunners rallied from a 3-0 deficit. Jack Wilshere, who spent last season on loan at Bournemouth, initially looked likely to miss the game after spraining his ankle against Chelsea on Wednesday, but Wenger said there's now a chance the midfielder will be fit.
"We had very good news yesterday morning. I saw him walking normal, his scan was good," Wenger said. "He's not out yet for the game on Sunday."
The Frenchman also said Aaron Ramsey will return to the squad after recovering from a muscle injury, while Mesut Ozil has a "50-50" chance of playing because of a slight knee injury that ruled him out the game at Stamford Bridge.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.