Wenger braced for Sanchez exit after star forward sits out Bournemouth loss
Alexis Sanchez could leave Arsenal "in the next 48 hours", Arsene Wenger has admitted.
Wenger insisted Sanchez did not refuse to play in Sunday's 2-1 Premier League defeat at Bournemouth, though the Chile striker did not travel to the south coast.
Gunners boss Wenger believes Sanchez could even yet still stay at Arsenal, even though he has refused to sign a new contract, with his current deal expiring in the summer.
Wenger confirmed he has received assurances from Arsenal's board that Sanchez will be replaced if he leaves, with Manchester United appearing ready to pip Manchester City to the 29-year-old's signature.
"Alexis would have played," said Wenger, after Arsenal leaked two goals in five minutes to slip to defeat.
"Alexis would have played, but it's a difficult period for him.
"He's always been committed until now but he could have gone yesterday and he could go in the next 48 hours.
"It was difficult for him because he was on standby. That's why I decided not to do it.
"He did not refuse to play."
Asked if Sanchez will be replaced if he leaves, Wenger said: "Yes. Look, if Sanchez goes we need to replace him.
"If players like Sanchez go we have of course to respond.
"Will he go or not, I don't know, but at the moment it's the transfer period.
"In this kind of period we try to use the players completely focused on being at the club.
"I don't master the rhythm of that but it could happen today, tomorrow, or not at all.
"That's why I didn't want to travel with him, and then suddenly he could go."
Hector Bellerin fired Arsenal into a second-half lead on the south coast, only for Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe to pounce and turn the game on its head.
Wenger lamented two costly mistakes that extended the Gunners' winless run to five games in all competitions.
"I feel overall physically it was a tough game for us," said Wenger.
"It wasn't forced errors, just lack of decision-making.
"We haven't created enough with the possession we had. We weren't sharp enough to create chances.
"Once you're 1-0 up you should create more chances. It's very frustrating and very disappointing, a very disappointing result for us, especially when you're 1-0 up.
"We made mistakes in areas where you wonder where they come from."
Eddie Howe hailed Bournemouth's resolve in turning the game around as the Cherries climbed to 13th in the table.
"We had to do it again, do it the hard way; it's never easy against any team to come back from a losing position," said Howe.
"It's a great sign for us, it has built confidence.
"There's always a chance you can come back into a game but to come back and win, and against one of the top teams, that's another boost for us.
"But now we've got to keep the momentum going, we can't relax. That would be dangerous."