Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s seemingly extraordinary decision to drop Alexis Sanchez before Saturday’s defeat at Liverpool was the result of a training ground row, British media reported on Sunday.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Sanchez walked out of training and was involved in a bust-up with angry team-mates days before the match.
The confrontation could, the paper said, hasten his departure from Arsenal at the end of the season, with Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus eager for his signature.
Sanchez has scored 17 goals in 26 league games so far this term but the Chile forward was left on the bench at Anfield — a move that failed miserably as Liverpool swept into a two-goal lead.
Wenger sent on Sanchez at half-time and the 28-year-old forward immediately played in Danny Welbeck to reduce the deficit.
It was too late to spark an Arsenal fightback, however, with the Gunners losing 3-1 as they crashed out of the top four following a third defeat in their last four league games.
Afterwards veteran French boss Wenger justified his decision as a tactical move, saying the “thinking was we had to go more direct”, although he did also accept his plan had backfired.
The Telegraph alleged that Sanchez walked off the training pitch mid-session which prompted his team-mates to confront him in the changing room, where there was a row about his attitude. The row caused Wenger to drop him, the newspaper said.
Pundits who were unaware of the reported background, criticised the under-pressure Wenger’s decision but the Telegraph said “many” Arsenal players backed the 67-year-old’s move in leaving Sanchez out of the starting XI.
Wenger did hint at motives other than tactics when, asked if the Sanchez decision had been “made for the team”, he said: “I will explain that later one time.”
Now the debate will turn to whether Sanchez starts at home to Bayern Munich in the second leg of a last 16 Champions League tie on Tuesday — a match where the Gunners have the seemingly impossible task of overturning a 5-1 deficit.
Wenger is almost certain to face further questions about Sanchez at Monday’s pre-match press conference. The Chilean scored Arsenal’s only goal in the first leg in Germany.