Wenger calls for rage as Sanchez row rumbles on
Arsenal Wenger says he wants to see a display of "lucid rage" from Arsenal at the Emirates tonight for a Champions League last-16 leg that he believes his side have a "one or two per cent chance" of qualifying from.
With Arsenal 5-1 down from a first leg that kicked off a dismal few weeks and culminated in the furore around Alexis Sanchez getting dropped for the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool after an angry bust-up in training, Wenger's words were all the more conspicuous and delivered with a smile, but he was serious about his side now needing to offer a display of focused aggression amid a "difficult climate".
His words also followed on from skipper Per Mertesacker's demand that Arsenal need to show "a different face" and that they are ready for a fight.
Wenger had been asked what he expects of his team when the deficit is so great.
"What you expect is that you go out there with a mixture of lucid rage… total commitment, but not a silly one because you have as well, in our game, always to make intelligent decisions, to make the optimal decision and for that you need a good combination of commitment but as well I think to keep your vision.
"Look we missed 45 minutes at Bayern Munich and we have an opportunity to put it right. Let's not fool ourselves, we have a one or two per cent chance. But you never know.
"That's why we have to focus on the quality of our performance and our commitment. You can miss 45 minutes and we paid for it. So we have to show 90 minutes of commitment.
"We finished top of the group, PSG finished second and they beat Barcelona 4-0. Why? Because Barcelona missed the game completely. We have to give our best.
"It's in a difficult climate at the moment because we have just lost at Liverpool so it's a bit more tense.
"So we have to earn our freedom to play because at the moment we play a little bit with the handbrake. In this game, maybe because we have nothing to lose, we can let the handbrake off and play with more freedom."
While Wenger was clearly speaking about his side, it was impossible not to put the words in the context of the Sanchez situation, and the ongoing debate about his ostentatious shows of frustration and how helpful they actually are. The Chilean himself put up an Instagram post with the words: "The true warrior fights not because he hates the ones in front of him, but because he loves those behind him."
Wenger earlier straight up denied that there had been a bust-up, describing the reports as "completely false" and his relationship with Sanchez as "honest and normal".
When asked about the much-photographed handshake between the two at the start of training yesterday, the Arsenal manager said: "You know, I shook hands with him on Saturday morning and after the game as well. You decided that I did not shake hands. I shake hands every day with Alexis Sanchez."
Wenger had said Sanchez "sometimes has excessive behaviours" due to his commitment, but insisted the interpretation of this was dependent on results.
"Excessive commitment is maybe sometimes when he shows (throws arms up in the air) on the pitch. It's always interpreted that he's not happy but it could be interpreted as well that he wants everyone to be with him. I think when it doesn't go well these things are interpreted negatively."
Pressed on how they were interpreted internally, Wenger said: "I don't know what happens inside your newspapers, maybe you love and kiss each other every day but I'm not completely convinced.
"You have to accept that a team is made up of 25 different personalities. So I don't want people to change. I just want them on board to achieve something together."