Arsene Wenger says he does not want to take a gamble by rushing Alexis back from injury.
The Chile forward has been sidelined since November’s draw at Norwich City but has recently shown “positive signs” in full training.
Wenger confirmed that Alexis could return to action against Chelsea on Sunday, but only if the manager believes he is ready for the intensity of a big game.
"To be clear on all the tests is one thing, after he is clear on training is another things, and after the intensity of a big game you can never repeat in a training session"
“I am cautious with him because we cannot afford a setback with him,” said Wenger. “A setback would mean a very long period out so we don’t want to take this gamble. The signs he has shown in training this week are positive.
“The doubt is that he has been out for a long time and the risk of a setback if you try to go too early. To be clear on all the tests is one thing, after he is clear on training is another things, and after the intensity of a big game you can never repeat in a training session. You can make sure after a certain amount of time that the risk is minimal.”
Mesut Ozil is set to come back into the squad after missing Sunday’s trip to Stoke with a slight foot injury, and Wenger believes Arsenal’s returning players will be key in the final months of the season.
“We have done extremely well during this period where we had big players out,” the manager said. “But it’s just a good opportunity for us to have everybody back because we are at the front of a very important schedule and we want to do well in the FA Cup, we want to do well in the Champions League and it’s good to have everyone back.
“The strikers give you goalscoring and as well I feel in games when you have 70 minutes gone and you have a strong bench it gives you a big chance to win the game. So this variety of problems you can give to the opponent is very important.”