Arsene Wenger says he has no knowledge of a bust-up between Alexis Sanchez and his Arsenal teammates and maintains his decision to drop the Chilean for Saturday’s clash with Liverpool was not a punishment.
Reports last night claimed the 28-year-old was confronted by senior first-team players after storming out of a training session last week and that Wenger subsequently took the decision to discipline his star striker.
“I’m not aware of it. Nothing happened,” said Wenger when quizzed on this morning’s newspaper headlines ahead of the Champions League second-leg knockout match with Bayern Munich.
Asked if he felt the report to be wrong, he added: “Yes, completely false, but I understand that you have to feed the newspapers and we respect that.”
The boss went on to describe his relationship with Sanchez, who has 15 months remaining on his current contract, as “honest and normal”. This morning, the two men were pictured shaking hands during a training session watched by members of the media.
Asked on Saturday night if the decision to drop Sanchez was related to his contract stand-off with the club, the boss was similarly dismissive.
“No, not at all,” he told Arsenal.com. “I do not consider the contract situation when a guy has 18 months to go.
“You make a [selection] decision and people always have a very emotional analysis and an emotional response to this kind of decision.
“I wanted us to play direct and by direct I mean to win the ball in the air and to win the second ball. We do play it sometimes.”
Today, he reiterated that stance: “I explained after the game at Liverpool that I decided to go for a more direct option in the game. That’s what happened. That was the unique reason for my decision. All the rest, his attitude – he’s a committed player and sometimes has excessive behaviours but you have that many times in the history of every squad.”
Given the stories of a bust-up were so widespread we have little doubt that something did happen with Sanchez, however, it’s totally Wenger’s style to play things down when faced by the press. He’s never been one to air the club’s dirty laundry in public and that’s not going to change while he remains at the helm.