image

English Premier League

No regrets: Arsene Wenger defends Alexis Sanchez gamble after defeat by Liverpool

Arsenal manager says he is comfortable with decision to pull Chilean striker from starting line-up

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 10:08am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 9:33pm

Arsene Wenger insisted he had no regrets at leaving Alexis Sanchez out of Arsenal’s starting line-up in his team’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.

The Arsenal manager, whose future at the Emirates is a subject of speculation, took the surprising decision to name Sanchez to the bench, bringing on the Chilean international at half-time.

Wenger explained his decision as a purely tactical one and claimed he did not regret his selection.

“I have no special regrets, the only regret is to have lost the game,” said Wenger.

“Look, the thinking was that we had to go more direct. We wanted to play two players who are strong in the air. After that 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 [Olivier] Giroud and [Theo] Walcott because we dominated midfield much more.

“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.”

Arsenal trailed to goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at the interval but Sanchez’s introduction saw a much-improved second half from the Gunners and a goal from Danny Welbeck, assisted by the substitute.

Georginio Wijnaldum secured an important win for the home side with the final goal in injury time.

Wenger would not discuss Sanchez’s mood after the game although TV pictures appeared to show him looking disgruntled on the Arsenal bench during the first period.

“I don’t think I need to go into every individual situation,” said Wenger.

“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.

“You focus on what you want. I believe for every single player it’s the same. When everybody tells you you need to buy strikers and you buy them and then everybody says, why don’t you keep them on the pitch. But it’s impossible.”

Liverpool’s win was the perfect response to the criticism Juergen Klopp’s team took following their surprise defeat at Leicester on Monday.

“It was good again,” said Klopp. “Coming up to the game we had a really hard week. I found a few words, that were not asking for friendship after the Leicester game. “The next day we analysed and it was not enjoyable for me when I did it or the players when they saw it.

“But there was a point in the week that we had to finish with the Leicester game. There were so many bad individual performances.

“We are the roller coaster. Lots of ups but too many downs. Only if you are really silly do you let the bad things influence you more than the good things.

“Then I watched training again late in the week and I thought, okay. the boys showed what they are capable of.

“If you had asked me on Wednesday if we could win I would have said no. On Thursday, I would have said maybe. But on Friday I knew we could win.”

Klopp admitted he had expected Sanchez to play at Anfield and that his arrival at half-time caused his team an anxious five minutes as they adjusted.

But he insisted he was not surprised by his omission.

“In 17 years as a manager I’m not surprised about line-ups,” he said.

“Except maybe if a player breaks his leg last week and plays then I want to meet the doctor!”