Football

Arsene wants deal with Sanchez the 'devil'

Arsenal boss says Chilean became a world-class player at the club and wants him to stay

Arsene Wenger described Alexis Sanchez as the "devil" who doesn't give up, after seeing the Chilean hit a brace against Sunderland to keep alive Arsenal's chances of gatecrashing the Premier League top four.

Sanchez struck twice in the final 17 minutes against the Black Cats as the Gunners overcame a frustrating affair in front of a sparsely-populated Emirates Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Arsenal still need either Manchester City or Liverpool to falter on the final day if they are to qualify for next season's Champions League but, thanks to Sanchez, they have at least taken the battle to the very last.

Thousands of empty seats greeted the players as the game got under way, many staying away as part of a boycott organised in protest against Wenger signing a new deal and remaining in charge beyond the FA Cup final meeting with Chelsea.

Sanchez finally broke the resistance of the already-relegated Black Cats, first turning home a Mesut Oezil cross from close range and then heading in after Jordan Pickford had saved from Olivier Giroud.

Sanchez was passed fit to play only hours before kick-off and, having reached 23 league goals for the campaign, Wenger was full of praise for the man whose own future remains uncertain, with his contract at Arsenal expiring in the summer of 2018.

Wenger said of Sanchez: "With him, I feel he had something still left (injury-wise), but once he's on the pitch and gets the ball, he always becomes a devil and forgets his pain.

"Nobody questions his desire and his quality.

"It shows as well that if you look at his numbers, he has developed here as a player and has become a top-class player and has not wasted his time here. Hopefully that will last for a long time."

Arsenal's French defender Laurent Koscielny is also hoping that Sanchez will commit his future to the Gunners amid reports that the Chilean is unhappy at the club.

He told Sky Sports: "I don't think there are a lot of players like him and a player like this who can be the difference during the game, it's rare.

"We want to keep him with us because we know he is so important for our team."

Wenger, 67, has never finished outside of the top four in a full season at the helm since his appointment in 1996.

But the achievement has been used against him increasingly in recent years as Arsenal have also failed to win a title since their 2004 unbeaten campaign.

He said: "I answered for 20 years the question, 'the top four is nothing special'.

"So I don't know why suddenly it could become such a big problem.

"I'm quite surprised. I want to absolutely make sure that we are in there but after that let's get to 75 points and see what happens."

Wenger had suggested earlier in the week that some teams are already "on holiday" as the season draws to a close.

But Sunderland boss David Moyes claimed those remarks were ill-judged.

"I think that's an insult to football as I've been a player myself," he said.

"I would hate it if anyone would question me if I was going to chuck a game away.

"We didn't play well on Saturday, we know that but I think you can see Sunderland had a go, tried to score at times but we were outclassed by a better football team." - WIRE SERVICES

eplarsenalsunderland