In Depth

Arsenal crisis: Sanchez row exposes 'weak, muddled' Wenger

Gunners boss is on the back foot as he denies rift despite dropping his star player for key game at Anfield

Arsene Wenger has rejected reports of a bust-up with Arsenal's star striker Alexis Sanchez, who was mysteriously dropped to the bench on Saturday as the Gunners lost 3-1 to Liverpool.

In the wake of another damaging defeat and with claims of mutiny in the ranks, it has been a deeply damaging weekend for the Arsenal manager. Many believe he will leave at the end of the season.

Tales of a training ground bust-up appeared across the board at the weekend. The details of the story were consistent across different media and this prompted BBC Match of the Day 2 presenter Mark Chapman to suggest that the story was genuine. 

Wenger shared a public handshake with Sanchez at a training session on Monday morning. Body language expert Judi James in the Daily Mirror likened to it "an awkward ritual that is performed for the cameras".

The French manager also dismissed claims of a row as "completely false", reports the BBC. "I'm not aware, nothing happened," he said. After the game on Saturday he claimed that the decision to drop Sanchez had been tactical.

Few people will believe him. The latest Emirates soap opera could be the last straw for many fans as, whatever the truth of the matter, Wenger has been made to look foolish.

"If Sanchez was left out of the starting XI as a punishment, bringing him on for the second half made it a half-hearted scolding, to say the least," says Nick Miller of The Guardian.

"The halfway house just seems like another example of muddled thinking from Wenger, or perhaps weakness: he wanted to punish Sanchez but did not have enough conviction to go without him as an insurance policy.

"It is arguably worse if we take Wenger's explanation at face value: tactics or not, being unable to find a place for his most potent forward among four attacking places verges on the surreal."

Wenger also claimed on Monday that he "built" Arsenal, but Matthew Syed, writing in The Times, warns that is part of the problem at Arsenal.

"If you look at the arc of the past few seasons, Wenger has found it increasingly difficult to question his own assumptions (on Saturday, he said he had no regrets about dropping his star player), particularly when things have gone against him.

"Criticism from outside the club has been regarded, not as an opportunity to think differently, but as a reason to hunker down. Instead of looking beyond the barricades of the club, to other sports and industries, for fresh ideas, as the young Wenger once did, the tendency has been to point to the past by way of self-justification."

Arsenal, he argues, are in danger of following in the footsteps of Kodak and Polaroid, who dwelled on past successes and went from innovation to oblivion.

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