Football

Wenger leaps to Sanchez's defence

Gunners boss insists Chilean star's brace shows his 'commitment' to the club

Arsene Wenger offered a stirring defence of Alexis Sanchez's attitude, insisting that the unsettled striker's match-winning double in the 3-2 win at Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park yesterday morning (Singapore time) demonstrated his commitment to the club.

The Chilean, who has been widely accused of not pulling his weight for Arsenal as his contract is expiring next June, produced one of his best performances of the season with intriguing timing, reported Reuters.

Wenger said that he was not "fearful" that Sanchez, whose second-half brace in four minutes turned the game, would leave in next month's transfer window.

Yet the fact that he should be back to his world-class best with the January market about to open was bound to raise eyebrows.

Manchester City, the English Premiership's runaway leaders, have been consistently linked with a move for Sanchez but, coming into the final six months of his contract, they could wait until the summer to snap him up on a free transfer.

The more cynical of Arsenal's fans, quick to make their views known on social media, saw Sanchez's performance, full of commitment and skill, as a shop-window display for City's, or even Paris Saint-Germain's, delectation.

Wenger, though, said: "Always when people don't have long contracts, they are questioned. The best way to show they are committed is to give that kind of performance.

"I felt he was very good tonight from the first minute on, focused on the game. This kind of Sanchez is a great football player, as we know. That's the kind of performance we want from him."

In situations like this, every incident is open to interpretation. The celebration after Sanchez scored his first goal - when he was joined by only Granit Xhaka, Mesut Oezil, Alexandre Lacazette and Shkodran Mustafi - prompted Sky Sports pundits Thierry Henry and Graeme Souness to question if there was a split within the Arsenal dressing room.

Former Liverpool and Newcastle United manager Souness said: "You're in the moment, you've scored a goal, you're elated. It's clear, it tells you that there's a dynamic going on in that dressing room which suggests it's not well."

Gunners legend Henry added: "You're not here for Alexis Sanchez, you're here for Arsenal. Arsenal scored. Go and celebrate. Whoever does it, we don't care about that, go and celebrate with your teammate."

TEAM CELEBRATE THIRD GOAL

However, after Sanchez scored his second and Arsenal's third, nearly the whole team went over to celebrate, prompting Henry to remark "that's way better".

Henry added: "Jack (Wilshere) went there because he gave the assist, but I don't know.

"With the first goal, maybe we're trying to read too much into it. I noticed it because Alexis Sanchez made me notice it, he turned and was like 'Hang on a minute, I'm alone here'. It was kind of weird."

Though it has been considered a formality that Sanchez will leave, Wenger added: "Look, first of all nobody knows what will happen really. It's difficult to speculate.

"At the moment, we are focused on the next game, with the players committed and ready to fight. It's not a guarantee of how long you stay somewhere."

Wilshere, who also had an outstanding game, said that he expected to extend his stay.

The England midfielder, who like Sanchez is out of contract in the summer, said: "The boss said he will speak to me... I'm sure it will get done."

Football