LONDON (Reuters) - Arsene Wenger offered a stirring defence of Alexis Sanchez’s attitude on Thursday, insisting the unsettled striker’s match-winning double in the 3-2 win at Crystal Palace demonstrated his continued commitment to the club.
The Chilean, who has been widely accused of not pulling his weight for Arsenal in the final year of a contract which expires next June, produced one of his best performances of the season with intriguing timing.
Wenger told reporters afterwards he was not “fearful” that Sanchez, whose second-half brace in the space of just 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 Premier League’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 after the game, saw Sanchez’s performance, full of commitment and skill, as a shop window display for City’s, or even Paris St Germain’s, delectation.
Wenger, though, told reporters: “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.”
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.
“As long as you are somewhere, you give your best. I’m not a specialist in psychology.”
Jack Wilshere, also outstanding in the Arsenal win and creator of Sanchez’s second goal with an exquisite long pass, said afterwards that he expected to sign a new deal with the club.
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.”
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Nick Mulvenney