05 Jan Sanchez is a winner
Arsene Wenger has played down Alexis Sanchez’s furious reaction to Arsenal’s draw at Bournemouth by insisting the Chilean’s passion is something he wants to see.
The Gunners rescued a point despite falling three goals behind at the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday, with Sanchez starting a memorable comeback by netting a diving header before Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud secured a 3-3 draw.
The result still saw Arsenal lose ground on some of their Premier League title rivals and Wenger’s men sit fifth in the table having previously been a permanent fixture in the top four since September.
Sanchez cut a frustrated figure for much of the game, arguing with Aaron Ramsey during a miserable first half, angrily throwing his gloves to the ground at full-time and storming down the tunnel.
Several newspaper reports on Thursday suggested the 28-year-old is moving closer to an exit as a result of his angst in the dressing room after the game. Sanchez has yet to sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium amid suggestions he wants parity with the best-paid players in the division.
But Wenger was pleased to see the passionate side of the former Barcelona man.
Asked about Sanchez’s negative body language, the Frenchman said: “Well, what is surprising there? You want to win the games and when you don’t win, you are unhappy – it is normal.
“Without passion, you do not come back after 70 minutes from three goals down in the Premier League.
“First of all it is exceptional, it doesn’t often happen in the Premier League and you need a special response, which is what happened.
“We wanted to win the game, and we didn’t win the game so we are all frustrated. Of course (he is fine).”
There was more bad news for Wenger following the draw with the Cherries as Perez was left nursing an ankle injury which is likely to keep him out of Saturday’s FA Cup match at Preston.
But the more serious injury was to Francis Coquelin, with the midfielder forced off in the first half with a hamstring problem which Wenger feels could see him without his compatriot for the best part of a month.
“He is out for three or four weeks now, it is his hamstring,” Wenger said.
“I say three or four weeks because it is a hamstring and he came off, but maybe we will have good news. he will have a scan today, but I always count three weeks.”
Wenger also offered a gloomy update on the condition of Santi Cazorla, who underwent surgery on a troublesome Achilles problem at the start of December.
Initially, it was expected the 32-year-old midfielder would miss three months but Wenger feels his spell on the sidelines could be extended – with his contract up in the summer.
“At the moment, he is far from returning,” added Wenger.
“It’s not going as quickly as I imagined it, so certainly in January he will not come back. It could be a bit longer (than three months).
“He’s such a great player and as well because he has started the season in such a tremendous way. He was the dominating player in our squad at the start of the season and we suddenly lost him.”
It was not all bleak news on the injury front however, with Wenger suggesting Danny Welbeck could play some part at Preston.
The England forward has been missing since May with a second serious knee injury since he joined from Manchester United almost two and a half years ago.
Welbeck, who has been restricted to 25 league starts since his arrival, will be hopeful of some involvement at Deepdale, but Wenger will manage the situation.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Wenger said when asked about Welbeck’s involvement.
“Physically his fitness is at quite a good level, but of course the ideal way is to give him two or three games with the under-23s. But the situation is not always ideal, sometimes you have to hurry up.
“He wants to play … at the moment, I think he listens well to what people advise him to do, even if he is, of course, naturally impatient. After you’ve been out for such a long time you do not want a setback.
“Danny and Sanchez are similar types of players, in the fact that they love, both, to play on the left. But they can both play through the middle and there is always an uncertainty where is their best position.”