'I've no regrets about dropping Sanchez. Remember that I developed him' - Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger reminded critics on Saturday night that he was responsible for Alexis Sanchez’s development as an Arsenal player and said he had “no regrets” about dropping him from the team that lost 3-1 at Liverpool.
The manager insisted that Sanchez, who has 16 months left on his contract, had been dropped for tactical reasons, allowing Arsenal to change tactics and play a direct game – and that as a manager he was “strong enough and lucid enough to analyse the impact.”
Sanchez – a pivotal contributor to the visiting side’s second half revival, according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after the game – was clearly deeply unhappy to be on the bench but Wenger insisted that it was justifiable. “Look, the thinking was that we had to go more direct,” Wenger said. “We wanted to play two players who are strong in the air (Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck) because we decided to go more direct.
“Everybody will come to the same conclusion but I’m strong enough and lucid enough to analyse the impact. I don’t deny Alexis Sanchez is a great player. I bought him, I always played him and he has developed well. A decision like that is not easy to make but you always have to stand up…”
Sanchez arrived on the pitch immediately after the interval and made an immediate impact – demanding a greater work-rate from his teammates, with Nacho Monreal discovering the sharp end of the Chilean's tongue, for not pushing up enough as Sanchez broke.
Sanchez would have been unimpressed to hear Wenger’s insistence on Saturday night that it was “easier for the strikers” after the break – rather than it being the player’s contribution alone which briefly swung the game back towards Arsenal. Sanchez was actually pivotal to the Welbeck’s goal – laying the ball into left-hand channel for the Englishman to clip the ball over Simon Mignolet.
“To bring Alexis Sanchez on in the second half… of course I believe in the second half it was easier for the strikers and you could see the difference in the performance of Giroud and [substitute Theo] Walcott because we dominated midfield much more,” he said.
Wenger would not discuss how Sanchez had taken the decision. “I don’t think I need to go into every individual situation,” he said. “What was good in the second half was the collective performance. What was bad in the first half was the collective performance. That for me is a much more rational explanation than all the rest.”
Klopp was fulsome in his praise for Sanchez. “On one side, he is a world class player,” he said. “On the other side he’s completely different to Welbeck. That is not a bad thing but it took us time to adjust. It only took is five minutes to adjust to what they did but it felt like 50.”
He said he had set up his training sessions to prepare for the Sanchez threat, and was clearly convinced there was no way Wenger would not play him.
“In 17 years as a manager I’m not surprised about line-ups - except maybe if a player breaks his leg last week and plays then I want to meet the doctor! I always make analysis without knowing who’s playing. We did it with Sanchez in the line-up but when Giroud was on the pitch it was a different game.”