Football: Wenger shakes off rumours of player bust-up

Arsene Wenger shaking hands with Alexis Sanchez before the team's training session at Arsenal's London Colney base. Should the Gunners fail to make up their four-goal deficit against Bayern Munich, they will exit the last-16 stage of the Champions Le
Arsene Wenger shaking hands with Alexis Sanchez before the team's training session at Arsenal's London Colney base. Should the Gunners fail to make up their four-goal deficit against Bayern Munich, they will exit the last-16 stage of the Champions League for the seventh straight year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Frenchman puts paid to 'newspaper' stories with futures of Sanchez and Ozil up in the air

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger yesterday dismissed reports of a training-ground bust-up involving forward Alexis Sanchez as "completely false".

The Chilean, 28, was reported to have stormed off the training pitch last week before becoming involved in an angry confrontation with his team-mates. He started Saturday's 3-1 Premier League defeat at Liverpool on the bench, coming on at half-time and making a goal for Danny Welbeck.

But when asked about the reports at a press conference prior to today's Champions League last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich, Wenger said they were untrue.

"Nothing happened, nothing at all," Wenger told reporters at Arsenal's London Colney base, after shaking Sanchez's hand in front of the cameras before training.

"But I understand you have to fill the newspapers and we respect that. When you don't win games, there are sometimes stories."

Wenger had explained that tactical factors had been the "unique reason" for his decision to start with Sanchez on the bench at Anfield, where the taller Olivier Giroud and Welbeck started up front.

  • Red-hot Chile temper

    JAN 3: BOURNEMOUTH (A) 3-3, PREMIER LEAGUE

    The Chilean demonstrated his frustration after the final whistle by ripping off his gloves and throwing them to the floor before heading straight down the tunnel without shaking hands with his opponents.

    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played down his leading scorer's actions, saying that it is "normal" because they did not win and the forward was merely "unhappy".

    JAN 14: SWANSEA (A) 4-0, PREMIER LEAGUE

    Sanchez was furious for being substituted despite scoring the Gunners' fourth goal.

    Wenger opted to give Danny Welbeck some playing time after his comeback from a long-term knee injury. But clearly upset with the decision, the Chilean proceeded to put his tracksuit coat over his head after taking his seat on the bench.

    FEB 15: BAYERN MUNICH (A) 1-5 , CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

    Sanchez was embroiled in a furious bust-up with his team-mates after the heavy defeat by the German giants, according to The Sun. At one point in the match after Bayern's Thomas Muller scored his team's fifth goal, Sanchez was pictured crouching down on the halfway line, away from the rest of his Arsenal team-mates.

"(Sanchez's) attitude is he's a committed player," he said. "Sometimes with excessive behaviours, but he's been in every squad."

The 67-year-old Frenchman added that his relationship with Sanchez was "honest and normal, like with every single player" and played down the possibility the Chilean might leave the club during the close season.

"Alexis Sanchez has 15 months on his contract so the decision on whether he stays will depend on Arsenal Football Club, not anybody else," he said.

He has been linked with a move away from Arsenal after this season, with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain among the clubs reportedly monitoring the situation.

Arsenal slipped out of the Champions League places following the weekend loss at Liverpool and must overturn a 5-1 deficit against Bayern to remain alive in this season's competition.

Wenger said he had yet to decide if Sanchez should start against the Bundesliga leaders at the Emirates.

Sanchez is Arsenal's top scorer this season with 20 goals in all competitions and is seen as their most important player along with German playmaker Mesut Ozil.

Ozil, whose Arsenal deal runs out at the end of next season, has reportedly been locked in protracted negotiations with the club but talks over a new contract have stalled.

Wenger also confirmed that the ill German will not play a part against Bayern.

The Gunners have been eliminated in the first knockout round of the Champions League in each of the last six seasons, twice by Bayern, and their manager appears no closer to solving the problem.

Deep down he knows Arsenal simply have not been good enough to make the grade in Europe. He has, however, not given up .

"The players are ready to fight," Wenger said. "We live in a world of small margins and if you drop off a little, it looks like you don't want to fight. But that is not the case."

Having won three Premier League titles and six FA Cups, Wenger can leave with his head held high whenever he calls it quits, but barring one of the all-time great escape acts today, his struggles in Europe will always haunt him.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger shakes off rumours of player bust-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe