Football/Soccer

Arsene Wenger: bust-up between Alexis Sanchez and team-mates "completely false"

Arsenal fans lost it after discovering Alexis Sanchez was dropped against Liverpool
Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger claimed reports of a bust-up between Alexis Sanchez and his team-mates were "completely false" as he again defended the decision to drop him against Liverpool.

The Chile forward was surprisingly named as a substitute for Saturday's 3-1 Premier League defeat at Anfield.

Several newspapers claimed he was left out due to an incident with his team-mates before the match and he was said to have walked out in the middle of a training session last week after an argument.

Sanchez has cut an increasingly frustrated figure in recent games as Arsenal's trophy hopes have taken a hit.

The loss to Liverpool followed on from previous league defeats against Watford and Chelsea, while the Gunners face Bayern Munich in the second-leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday having lost 5-1 in Germany last month.

Wenger claimed after the game on Saturday that Sanchez, who came on to provide the assist for Danny Welbeck's consolation strike, had been left out for tactical reasons.

The 28-year-old trained with the squad as normal on the eve of the Bayern clash and shook hands with Wenger as he made his way onto the club's London Colney training pitch.

And, speaking to the media after the training session, Wenger insisted there are no issues with Sanchez - even if some of his behaviour can be "excessive" at times.

"I am not aware, nothing at all," he said.

"I explained after the game I decided to go for a more direct option, that was the unique reason for my decision."

Asked directly if the reports were true, Wenger said: "Completely false. I understand you have to fill newspapers.

"All the rest, his attitude - he's a committed player and sometimes has excessive behaviours but you have that many times in the history of every squad.

"It's about the team performance, not individuals. It's a team sport and the most important thing is that we focus on our collective. Our game is built on collective expression.

"That is the most important thing, that we focus on what's important and not the individual. Alexis played in all the games and when we didn't perform away from home, we lost as well.

"We lost at Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, and that's what I think is the most important thing, to focus and produce as a team."

Wenger described his relationship with Sanchez as "honest and normal, like with every single player."

There have been constant questions over Sanchez's future as he has just over a year remaining on his current deal and is seeking parity with the league's top-paid players.

But Wenger, whose own fate at the Emirates Stadium is also up in the air with his contract up in the summer, said it will be up to the club if Sanchez is still an Arsenal player next season.

"Alexis has 15 months of his contract so the decision of will he be here or not will depend completely on Arsenal Football Club and not on anybody else," he said.

"The definition of a happy person is very difficult, I have never found an ideal situation. A happy perform on the football front is a player who comes out of a game and has won it and has performed well.

"I hope he will be very happy tomorrow night. Let's not project ourselves too far. Short-term happiness is easier to get that long-term happiness, so let's just focus on short term.

While Wenger said he had not decided whether to reinstate Sanchez into his side for the game against Bayern, the player posted on Instagram shortly after the conclusion of the press conference, showing three pictures of him in his Arsenal kit and with a cryptic message which he ended with a note to supporters.

"The true warrior fights not because he hates the ones in front of him, but because he loves those behind him. Let's go Gunners. The only failure is not trying," he wrote.

Speaking on his own future, Wenger interjected a question aimed at Mertesacker when the defender was asked if the players want the Frenchman to remain next year.

"Honestly, I don't think it's down to the players to choose a manager," he said.

"Your questions are not adjusted to the press conference when preparing for a game. The players have to perform.

"The board chooses the manager. It's your bosses who choose whether you're here or not. I can understand that I am criticised after these results, but it's not down to the players to choose the manager.

"The players have to perform for this football club. I think we are at the best club in the world, and we have to show pride and commitment to defend the pride of this club.

"It's not about the politics. We are not at a political club here, we are judged on performance. I have to perform and the players have to perform."

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Football/Soccer