Belfast Telegraph

Sanchez close to quitting Gunners

Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

By Ian Herbert

Arsene Wenger dropped Alexis Sanchez for disciplinary reasons for Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, bringing a heated week on the club's training ground to a head and putting the top scorer's future in doubt.

It now looks increasingly unlikely the Chilean star will stay beyond the summer, with both Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus interested, and creating more problems in a miserable spell for Wenger.

It's understood that Sanchez stormed out of a training session in midweek due to an angry disagreement with a team-mate, which continued in the changing rooms once the rest of the team returned.

This led to Wenger deciding to drop Sanchez for the Liverpool game for what he felt was the good of the team, rather than any tactical decision to go "direct", as the manager tried to profess after the defeat.

The decision also came due to the Arsenal boss' growing disenchantment with the manner that Sanchez so petulantly and ostentatiously has outbursts on the pitch when things are not going to plan.

It is understood Wenger felt he had to act following the latest outburst behind closed doors, particularly given the mood of the rest of the team.

The move backfired when Arsenal went 2-0 down to the Reds and Wenger was forced to bring Sanchez on, with the forward then setting up Danny Welbeck for a goal.

Beyond his tactical explanation, the manager was enigmatic about the decision saying he would explain it another time, but it now seems to make Sanchez's future even clearer.

He has still not signed a new contract, and is leaning towards leaving the club. Juventus are currently the likeliest destination, but PSG remain a possibility, and the prospect of the striker becoming available could also alert other Premier League clubs.

It is understood he also has interest from the Chinese Super League, but would want offers of up to a million a week to even consider leaving Europe.

Wenger reminded critics that he was responsible for Sanchez's development as an Arsenal player and said he had "no regrets" about dropping him.

The Chilean - 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.

"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).

"Everybody will come to the same conclusion but I'm strong enough and lucid enough to analyse the impact. I don't deny Sanchez is a great player. I bought him, I always played him and he has developed. A decision like that is not easy but you always have to stand up…"

Sanchez arrived on the pitch immediately after the interval and made an impact - demanding a greater work-rate from his team-mates, with Nacho Monreal discovering the sharp end of his tongue for not pushing up enough.

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 goal - laying the ball into the left-hand channel for the Englishman to clip the ball over Simon Mignolet.

That brought the score to 2-1 after Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had opened the scoring, but Georginio Wijnaldum's late strike sealed the win.

"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 need to go into every individual situation," he said.

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. It took us time to adjust.

"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 completely different game."

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Wijnaldum, Can, Lallana (Lucas, 90 mins), Mane (Alexander-Arnold, 90 mins), Firmino, Coutinho (Origi, 79 mins). Unused subs: Karius, Lovren, Moreno, Woodburn

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin (Sanchez, 46 mins), Welbeck (Walcott, 74 mins), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Giroud (Perez, 74 mins). Unused subs: Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Ospina

Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Robert Madley

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