Richard Buxton: Surely, time's up for Wenger
Benching an in-form Sanchez may have far-reaching consequences
Arsene Wenger will never admit to his own failings. It is simply not in his DNA.
The Frenchman continues to regret nothing and admonishes anyone who dares highlight his flaws in what is increasingly proving to be his Arsenal endgame.
"Le Professeur" has become stale; reduced to deploying hackneyed tactics that underestimate both the mood of his opponents and the Gunners' own strengths, as shown in their 3-1 defeat by Liverpool yesterday morning (Singapore time).
At Anfield, he wilfully opted to use brute force over brilliance and it backfired spectacularly.
Alexis Sanchez had justifiable cause to derive a gallows humour from his manager's misfortune. TV cameras picked up on the Chilean's jovial mood from the substitutes' bench shortly after Roberto Firmino had handed the hosts a ninth-minute lead.
Demoting Arsenal's leading scorer in order to take a more direct approach against Juergen Klopp's under-performers was as indicative of Wenger's waning managerial qualities as much as it was misguided. A half-time mea culpa arrived far too late to save his side.
If this was the 67-year-old's attempt to engage in a spot of brinkmanship with Sanchez, amid concerns that the former Barcelona winger may be preparing to leave the London club this summer, it was neither the time nor place to do so.
With a top-four finish hanging in the balance and Mesut Oezil, absent from this chastening defeat, struggling for form of late, Arsenal need Sanchez more than ever.
A brief acknowledgement of the travelling fans at Anfield, far less pronounced than that of his teammates, and swift exit highlighted the current disparity between player and club.
Sanchez's influence on Arsenal this season cannot be understated. He is their only player to break into double figures and has influenced 26 goals in the EPL, 17 of them by his own. Omitting him, when fully fit, was an act of self-sabotage on Wenger's part.
True to form, Sanchez created Danny Welbeck's goal in the 57th minute after coming on as a second-half substitute. But Liverpool, who led 2-0 at half-time, had already done the damage.
Wenger, by his own admission, is strong enough to handle the ramifications of benching his side's best player. Yet the fallout from his talisman's omission may linger, especially with their Champions League stint set to end on Wednesday morning.
Overturning a four-goal deficit in their last-16 tie with Bayern Munich is highly improbable, making the need to finish in the EPL's top four all the more imperative.
Purely by the paucity of those around them, notably Liverpool themselves, their status as Champions League mainstays has never truly been under threat over the previous decade.
But with the Reds, local rivals Tottenham and even Everton all building up considerable steam in recent weeks, a potential exile from Europe's elite club competition for the first time in over 17 years now looms large.
The EPL's top six invariably rub their hands with glee whenever Arsenal's name crops up on their respective fixture lists. Away wins have become as rare as sustained title challenges, with only three in the past five seasons. Overall, they have won just 10 from 47 in that time.
An infamous banner at the Emirates Stadium once declared that pain was temporary but Wenger is forever. The two remain increasingly intertwined the more time elapses.
This is likely to be as good as it gets for both parties; an unedifying end to what was an initially promising love affair. Two decades on, acrimony now rages through the matrimony.
Begrudgingly, Arsenal and Wenger must finally part ways.
Wenger: Dropping Sanchez backfired
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits his decision to drop top-scorer Alexis Sanchez backfired in the 3-1 defeat at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time), but the Frenchman was unrepentant.
The Chile international, who has scored 20 goals this season, did not appear until the start of the second half - by which time the Gunners were 2-0 down to goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Sanchez provided the assist for Danny Welbeck to pull one back but despite an improved performance, Georginio Wijnaldum clinched the result for Liverpool in added time.
Said Wenger: "Yes (it did backfire) but I felt that in the first half the strikers suffered because we weren't dominant in midfield and in the second half you could see that it was easier because Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud were much better, so it's always debatable.
"The thinking was that we had to go more direct and I wanted to play two players who were strong in the air and after that to bring on Alexis Sanchez in the second half.
"We did go direct in the first half. We didn't create any chances and we didn't make enough of our corners.
"I am strong enough and lucid enough to analyse. I don't deny Alexis Sanchez is a great player - I bought him - but this was my plan.
"The collective performance was not good enough in the first half and that is the more rational explanation.
"I think in the first half we suffered from a lack of competition but it was a game of two halves and in the second half we did well."
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp insists he was not shocked by the decision to omit Sanchez from the Arsenal team though.
He said: "I am 17 years a manager and I am really not surprised about any line-ups in my life.
"We always analyse without knowing who is playing. We did it with Alexis Sanchez in the line-up but when Giroud is in the line-up it is a different game because they cross more often.
"For us, it was not a big advantage; as I said, Alexis had a big impact on the game, but because we had to adapt to it. If he starts, then we could have already a better solution from the beginning."
- PA Sport
I am strong enough and lucid enough to analyse. I don't deny Alexis Sanchez is a great player - I bought him - but this was my plan.Arsene Wenger