Saturday 3 December 2016

Sanchez: We lack hunger

Arsenal striker doubts mental strength of team-mates

Jeremy Wilson

Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30

‘We lack mental strength’ admits misfiring Gunner Alexis Sanchez Photo: Catherine Ivill/AMA/Getty Images
‘We lack mental strength’ admits misfiring Gunner Alexis Sanchez Photo: Catherine Ivill/AMA/Getty Images

Alexis Sanchez has openly questioned the mentality of his Arsenal team-mates and admitted that the players sometimes lack the "hunger to believe that we can be champions".

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Arsenal have slumped to three consecutive defeats in the space of 10 potentially season-defining days, culminating in Wednesday's 2-1 limp home loss against Swansea City that prompted loud booing on the final whistle.

It remains possible to draw level on points with second-placed Tottenham in tomorrow's derby but many supporters have already lost faith and will gain little reassurance from Sanchez's blunt assessment.

"If we go out on to the pitch with hunger to become champions, to win the Premier League or the Champions League we can achieve it, to win big things," Sanchez told DirecTV Sports.

"There are great players. I train with them daily and they have got the mentality and the desire to win but we lack hunger, the mentality that we are winning 1-0 when we go out on to the pitch.

Details

"Sometimes we lack this hunger to believe that we can be champions - to go out on to the pitch feeling that we are winning 1-0. The other team doesn't always win because it is superior. It is rather little details."

Sanchez was speaking last Friday between the defeats against Barcelona and Manchester United but the interview was only broadcast on Wednesday.

Such a blunt assessment from one of the best and most senior players is certain to send ripples through the dressing room and is likely to be the dominant theme of Wenger's press conference this morning.

Wenger is usually unhappy at players publicly attributing blame for the team's failings but will also surely hope that it has the impact of spurring others to show just how much they want to end the club's 12-year wait for a Premier League title.

Sanchez has won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Club World Cup with Barcelona, as well as the Copa America for Chile, and his desire and work ethic are widely respected by his team-mates.

He has, however, been struggling for his best form since returning from a hamstring injury and has not scored in the Premier League since October.

Arsenal are already without Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny for the derby at Tottenham tomorrow while Sanchez has revealed how fatigued he has been by a relentless schedule that has included the World Cup and Copa America in consecutive summers.

"After the Copa America that we [Chile] won, I finished very worn out, it has been very difficult for me to start this season," said Sanchez. "I haven't been very sharp but little by little I am finding my form to help the team."

Sanchez revealed that, as well as the hamstring injury, he has also played through knee pain. He is adamant, though, that he would only lose fitness and feel worse if he was rested. "I always like to play, it is useful for me, I know how to regulate myself," he said. "When I am very tired I know when I have to go in hard or slow down, it helps me to play better in the next match. Sometimes when I am not playing in a game it leaves me feeling very tired when I play in the next one. It is like I haven't trained for a month.

"Football players have always got a problem, some pain, and in some games I have had small problems with my knee or some pain and I played anyway, but people don't know if I have a problem or not. People just know if you score a goal or if you play badly but they never know if you are well or not."

It is the most open and unpredictable Premier League title race of recent times and it is probable that the winning team will need fewer than 80 points for the first time since 1997. The upheavals at Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have presented Arsenal with a golden opportunity and Wenger's position will come under huge scrutiny should his team finish behind Leicester City or Tottenham.

Wenger's contract does not expire until the end of next season and the club remain total in their support although it is conceivable that the situation could be challenged if the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium began consistently to impact on the players.

Wenger is also now working amid raised expectations following the decade from 2004 until 2014 when commercial income was restricted by building the Emirates and it is difficult to see him wanting to go on if his team are unable to sustain a Premier League title challenge either this year or next.

Paul Scholes, the former Manchester United midfielder, believes that Tottenham may effectively end Arsenal's title hopes tomorrow. "The question about Arsenal is - have Arsenal got the bottle to go there and win a game after the two results they've just had?" he told BT Sport. "I doubt whether they've got the bottle or the balls to go on and do it. This season I think I was a little conned by Arsenal. I thought they'd added a bit of steel with [Petr] Cech and [Mesut] Ozil was really coming into his own and I had a slight feeling that they might go on to win it.

"But once again they haven't disappointed, they always seem to, when it comes down to the crunch, lose their bottle and they can't produce in big games.

"And Wenger, I think, if he gets to the end of the season and they haven't won the league this year then I think he has to be under big pressure now."

Telegraph.co.uk

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