Eyebrows were raised before kick off last night when Alexis Sanchez was named on the bench for Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea in the Carabao Cup.
The Chilean had been the subject of a £20m bid from Man City, despite the fact they can sign him for free in the summer. It increased speculation over his future, but afterwards Arsene Wenger denied that his decision was made with a potential transfer in mind.
Nor was the Frenchman particularly forthcoming when asked to explain why he left his joint-leading scorer out of the team.
“The team selection had nothing to do with the transfer market,” he said.
“I have not to justify every decision I make, I made over 1,000 games and I made over 1,000 teams and got it wrong every time. I have to make a decision.
“You have to accept as well when you play so many games, and Sanchez plays every game, that sometimes a breather in the middle of the season helps them a little bit.”
It was then put to him that Sanchez could start negotiating with clubs abroad, because he’s in the final 6 months of his contract, as if this was somehow a revelation to him.
“Are you aware?,” he asked. “I am not. You just gave me the rule. He doesn’t need to tell me that he speaks to anybody else, because that’s the rule. He doesn’t need to alert the club, he can do it on his own.”
He then defended his player and his character from accusations that his commitment to the club would be less now that he’s heading towards the end of his current deal.
“People don’t know Alexis well,” he said. “This is a guy who is completely focused to play football. Have you seen how he came on today, how he warmed up?
“Like a player who wants to play football. He can make a difference between what’s going on outside and what’s going on on the football pitch, with facts, not psychological theories.
“The fact is when you turn up on the pitch, you play football and you give 100 per cent. That’s what he does.
“I have no problem if he signs now [for another club] or in June. What is important for me is the next game and that you can rely on him.
“The only thing I want to say is the performance of Alexis and the commitment does not depend on the duration of his contract, it just depends on the fact that when he’s on the pitch he wants to play.
“You say basically that the commitment of a player is linked with the length of his contract. I don’t believe that at all.”
For more on last night’s game, check out today’s Arseblog: A decent draw, but injury worries mount as Wilshere limps off