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Thursday 14 December 2017

Arsene Wenger: Dropping Alexis Sanchez backfired

Alexis Sanchez started the 3-1 defeat on the bench
Alexis Sanchez started the 3-1 defeat on the bench

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits his decision to drop top scorer Alexis Sanchez backfired in the 3-1 defeat at Anfield but the Frenchman was unrepentant.

The Chile international, who has scored 20 goals this season, did not appear until the start of the second half - by which time the Gunners were 2-0 down to goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Sanchez provided the assist for Danny Welbeck to pull one back but despite an improved performance, Georginio Wijnaldum clinched the result for Liverpool in added time.

"Yes (it did backfire) but I felt that in the first half the strikers suffered because we didn't dominant in the midfield and in the second half you could see that it was easier because Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud were much better, so it's always debatable," said Wenger.

"The thinking was that we had to go more direct and I wanted to play two players who were strong in the air and after that to bring on Alexis Sanchez in the second half.

"We did go direct in the first half. We didn't create any chances and we didn't make enough of our corners.

"I am strong enough and lucid enough to analyse. I don't deny Alexis Sanchez is a great player - I bought him - but this was my plan.

"The collective performance was not good enough in the first half and that is the more rational explanation.

"I think in the first half we suffered from a lack of competition but it was a game of two halves and in the second half we did well."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he was not shocked by the decision to omit Sanchez from the Arsenal team.

"I am 17 years a manager and I am really not surprised about any line-ups in my life," he said.

"We always analyse without knowing who is playing. We did it with Alexis Sanchez in the line-up but when Giroud is in the line-up it is a different game.

"For us it is not a big advantage and Alexis had a big impact on the game.

"We expected a response from Arsenal when Alexis Sanchez was on the pitch because he is a world-class player.

"It took five minutes to adapt to the situation because they had two big chances at the start of the second half."

Klopp was more concerned with how his side reacted to a dreadful performance in the 3-1 defeat at Leicester on Monday.

The German admits they spent more time than usual picking over the bones of that display and even three days ago he was convinced his players would not be able to beat Arsenal.

"The analysis of the Leicester game was nothing for me to enjoy but only if you are really silly do you let the bad things influence you," he said.

"If I would have thought after Wednesday if you'd asked me whether we can win against Arsenal the answer would have been 'no'," he said.

"But if you would have asked me on Thursday it would have been 'Not sure' but on Friday I knew 'Yes we can'.

"The performance tonight should not be a surprise because we have played a few times like this."

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