LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger dismissed reports of a training-ground bust-up involving star forward Alexis Sanchez as “completely false” on Monday.
The 28-year-old was reported to have stormed off the training pitch last week before becoming involved in an angry confrontation with his team-mates, but he took part in training on Monday and shook hands with Wenger before the session.
Sanchez 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.
Asked about the reports at a press conference prior to Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich, Wenger said they were “completely false”.
“Nothing happened, nothing at all,” Wenger told reporters at Arsenal’s London Colney base.
“But I understand that you have to fill the newspapers and we respect that. When you don’t win the games there are sometimes stories.”
Wenger said tactical factors had been the “unique reason” for his decision to start with Sanchez on the bench at Anfield, where Olivier Giroud and Welbeck started up front.
“His attitude is he’s a committed player,” Wenger said of Sanchez. “Sometimes with excessive behaviours, but he’s been in every squad.
“The definition of a happy person is very difficult. I never found the ideal one.
“On the football front, it is to play well and win. I hope he is happy tomorrow.”
Wenger said his relationship with Sanchez was “honest and normal, like with every single player” and played down the possibility the Chile forward 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 on anybody else,” said the Frenchman.
While Wenger tried his best to keep the peace, he did express frustration with Sanchez’s recent performances in Arsenal’s most important matches.
“Sanchez played in all the games when we didn’t perform, at Manchester City, Chelsea,” he said.
“Everybody is a top player at this level. It’s not down to one individual. It’s important we all perform as a team.”
Pressed on whether Sanchez would be restored to the starting line-up on Tuesday at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger said he was yet to make up his mind.
“You will have to come to the game (to find out). I will decide tomorrow morning,” he said.
At the same time Wenger was facing the media, Sanchez tried to put the storm behind him as he took to Instagram to express his commitment to the Arsenal cause.
“The true warrior fights not because he hates the ones in front of him, but because he loves those behind him. Let’s go Gunners. The only failure is not trying,” Sanchez wrote.
Displays of frustration
He has been linked with a move away from Arsenal at the end of the season, with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain among the clubs reported to be 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.
Sanchez, a July 2014 signing from Barcelona, 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.
But as Arsenal’s form has dipped, his on-pitch displays of frustration have become increasingly noticeable.
Wenger conceded on Saturday that his decision not to start with Sanchez at Anfield had backfired, but said he had “no special regrets”.