Thursday 14 December 2017

Alexis Sanchez strop fires warning to Arsene Wenger and Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez was not happy to be substituted at Swansea CREDIT: PA
Alexis Sanchez was not happy to be substituted at Swansea CREDIT: PA
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck (left) and Swansea City's Kyle Naughton battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Jeremy Wilson

As Arsene Wenger found himself again debating the deeper meaning of a second successive away-day strop by his star player, there was at least one indisputable consolation.

Arsenal 4 Swansea city 0

Any manager, anywhere in the world, would much prefer the friction caused by Alexis Sanchez's insatiable desire to play and win than the problems currently faced at Chelsea and West Ham United over Diego Costa and Dimitri Payet.

Arsenal's Alex Iwobi (left) and Swansea City's Kyle Naughton battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Arsenal's Alex Iwobi (left) and Swansea City's Kyle Naughton battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

"Yes, of course," said Wenger, when that comparison was made. "Individually, you want everybody to behave very well, but we don't live in a perfect world.

"If you are a football player, you want to play every minute. Sanchez is a guy who wants to fight everywhere. Sometimes where he shouldn't. It's part of it. I have nothing more to add to that."

While Sanchez's reaction to being substituted after 79 minutes, with Arsenal leading 4-0, hardly represented a major tremor on the Richter scale of football meltdowns, it would be dangerous to dismiss its significance.

Sanchez, remember, was even more angry after Arsenal only drew 3-3 against Bournemouth less than two weeks ago and there was no attempt here to conceal his frustration.

Swansea City's Leroy Fer (left) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Swansea City's Leroy Fer (left) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

While Mesut Ozil obediently trotted off when his number was raised, Sanchez (right) first stood motionless in apparent shock. He then began muttering and, while there was a shake of the hand for Danny Welbeck and a pat on the back from Wenger, he volleyed his gloves towards the dugout before sitting with his head in his hands and a coat briefly covering his face.

Sanchez later tweeted that he was "happy for our victory and our team" and, while Wenger remained adamant that it was nothing more than a "little detail", the wider backdrop cannot be dismissed.

Sanchez is not only Arsenal's best player just now but arguably the most influential in the entire league. He also has only 17 months remaining on his contract and, should Arsenal fail this season to compete seriously for either the Premier League or Champions League, he looks like a man who will seriously review his options, with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City interested.

One man who would have been happy to see Sanchez depart was Swansea City manager Paul Clement in what was his first home game.

Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal. Photo: Getty Images
Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal. Photo: Getty Images

Clement's team had performed well in the first half, but they folded once Olivier Giroud put Arsenal ahead after 37 minutes.

Yet, they should have had a penalty when Laurent Koscielny's outstretched foot upended Ki Sung-Yueng, but instead referee Mike Jones booked Ki for diving.

The Liberty faithful had further reason to curse the heavens when Alfie Mawson and Jack Cork both deflected Alex Iwobi shots into their own net.

It was almost a relief when Arsenal scored a 'clean' goal all of their own, with Sanchez's 75th-minute volley further proof of why they cannot dare allow him to leave the Emirates.

The wider picture for Arsenal was in keeping some pressure on Chelsea and remaining within a point of Tottenham.

Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal. Photo: Getty Images
Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal. Photo: Getty Images

It is Wenger's 21st season in English football and never, he says, has there been a campaign with so many title contenders at this stage.

"It's the first time that you have six teams," he said. "An advantage still for Chelsea but you can see if you look around that they are all doing well. There is nobody dropping off.

"It's down to being consistent, keeping your nerve, focusing on your game and being together to hope that you can come out on top in the end. In February you go into Europe, into the cups. Who can maintain it? Nobody can tell." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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