Arsene Wenger: Alexis Sanchez is 'completely focused' on playing football

Arsene Wenger has defended Alexis Sanchez and insisted the Arsenal forward's omission from the starting line-up at Chelsea was "nothing to do with the transfer market".

The former Barcelona forward is out of contract in the summer and is free to speak to foreign clubs over a pre-contract agreement, while he has been repeatedly linked with a switch to Manchester City.

Speaking after the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg stalemate at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, when Sanchez came off the substitutes' bench, Wenger said: "People don't know Alexis Sanchez. This is a guy completely focused on playing football.

"The performance of Alexis Sanchez and the commitment does not depend on the duration of his contract, just depends on the fact when he's on the football pitch he wants to play.

"He can make a difference between what's going on outside and what's going on on the football pitch.

"When you come on to the pitch you play football and give 100 per cent. That's what he does."

Wenger maintains hope Sanchez will stay.

"I want him to stay for longer," he added.

"I have no problem if he signs with us now or in June."

Alex Iwobi did start, despite facing a fine for partying prior to last Sunday's FA Cup third-round loss at Nottingham Forest.

"If I think he can help the team to win, that's nothing to do with the fact he can be punished separately individually," Wenger added.

Wenger felt the familiarity of the teams, meeting for a second time in two weeks, contributed to the tepid draw.

Jack Wilshere went off with an ankle sprain which could make the midfielder doubtful for Sunday's trip to Bournemouth.

The Video Assistant Referee was available in English football for the second time.

The most relevant moment of its use came when Cesc Fabregas wanted a penalty following a Danny Welbeck challenge after 88 minutes, but play continued after referee Martin Atkinson consulted VAR Neil Swarbrick and it was determined Welbeck got the ball.

Wenger felt the game had advanced from that moment, as more than a minute elapsed before the VAR was consulted at a break in play for a corner.

He added: "It looks a bit strange to go on for two minutes sometimes and after come back.

"That you cannot intervene straight away is a bit frustrating."

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte felt more added time should have been applied due to VAR.

Conte also bemoaned another goalless draw, after last Saturday in the FA Cup at Norwich.

Conte said: "We shot 20 times. We created chances to score, but we didn't take them. I think in the last period we must be more clinical.

"My speech is not for the strikers. We have to improve with all the players, not only the strikers or midfielders."


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