Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played down suggestions of a rift with Alexis Sanchez on the eve of his side’s near impossible Champions League conundrum against Bayern Munich.
Wenger denied that a training ground feud was the reason for Sanchez’s omission from the Gunners’ starting line-up at Liverpool on Saturday, but conceded the Chile playmaker was prone to “excessive behaviours”.
The Frenchman dodged questions on whether Sanchez was happy in north London, although warned the 28-year-old that Arsenal hold the whip hand should he have designs on leaving the club in the summer.
“Nothing happened, nothing at all,” said Wenger. “I explained after the game at Liverpool that I decided to go for a more direct option in the game. That’s what happened. That was the unique reason for my decision.
“All the rest, his attitude – he’s a committed player and sometimes has excessive behaviours but you have that many times in the history of every squad.”
Sanchez’s current Arsenal contract expires at the end of next season and the speculation over whether he will sign a fresh deal has dominated what has been another underwhelming season for the Gunners.
“Alexis has 15 months of his contract so the decision of will he be here or not [next season] will depend completely on Arsenal Football Club and not on anybody else,” added Wenger.
Former Barcelona forward Sanchez took a full part in training yesterday at Arsenal’s London Colney base, after which he quoted English writer and poet GK Chesterton in a message on his Instagram page.
“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,” wrote Sanchez, who has netted 20 times for Arsenal this season.
Wenger confirmed that Mesut Ozil, another player with question marks over his long-term future at Emirates Stadium, would not feature against Bayern. Ozil has only trained once since missing the Liverpool match due to illness and Wenger said he had concerns over whether the playmaker is physically ready.
Arsenal face the unlikely mission of overturning a 5-1 first-leg deficit against the German champions if they are to avoid a seventh successive exit at the last 16 stage of the competition.
“I think we are the best club in the world and we have to defend the pride of it,” said Wenger. “I have to perform and we have to perform.
“The players are ready to fight but I think we live in a world of small margins. If you drop off a little in the belief side it can look like the players don’t want to fight, but I 100 per cent believe these players want to fight and want to win.”