ARSENAL 3-0 BOURNEMOUTH: AFTER his players resumed normal service on the pitch, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was pressed into a chat about loyalty and why he once turned down Man Utd and had just stopped Alexis Sanchez leaving.
Wenger signed a new contract at the end of May’s record FA Cup winning season, much to the dismay of some Arsenal board members and many supporters.
It is said some of that uncertainty spread to the players and is why Sanchez, booed by sections of the fans after coming on as a late substitute, pushed for a transfer window switch to Manchester City.
Wenger trotted out words about how he still feels he can rely on the Chilean – for now – but was more interesting when he confirmed claims in a recent interview with former Old Trafford chairman Martin Edwards that he nearly left Arsenal for United.
Unlike some of his players in recent years, Wenger decided his loyalty lay with Arsenal and that he felt he was at the better club.
Initially reluctant to confirm or deny Edwards’ claims, he eventually relented and explained why he turned him down in 2001, at a time when Alex Ferguson was due to retire. Asked if United tempted him, the French coach insisted: “No because I was always happy here. More than people [were] happy with me maybe.”
Wenger has often been linked with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but this is the first time he has been knowingly approached directly by a rival Premier League club.
He expanded on his reasons to stay at Arsenal and explained: “Because I love the values of this club and for me a club is about values first and as well because I know what has changed.
“One day it would be a good chat, to look at the evolution, because when you think about Man United the evolution since the last 20 years, it would be very interesting.
“A lot has changed, but when I came here this club was about values that I love in sport and that’s why I’m still in the competition and so I will always question myself. Yes, of course Man Utd is attractive, but am I happy here and the answer was yes.”
Wenger also insisted Arsenal had changed in the intervening years too. “When I arrived here we were 80 people, today we are 700. Sometimes I cross somebody inside our club who I know, that is quite new. Most of them I don’t know anymore.”
Wenger was in a light-hearted mood after seeing his players destroy a below par Bournemouth with two goals from Danny Welbeck and a second home goal in two games for summer signing Alex Lacazette.
They struck early, from Welbeck’s sixth-minute header, and never looked back with Lacazette’s superb 20-yard curler effectively sealing the deal. Welbeck’s well taken second shortly after the break put the result even further beyond doubt. Bournemouth striker Jermain Defoe said afterwards: “We showed Arsenal too much respect and paid for it.”
He was right as this was a side rejuvenated from the one thrashed at Liverpool last time out.
They now have the unique task of preparing for their first Thursday night European tie with the visit of Cologne this week in the Europa League. A trip to Chelsea follows at the weekend.
And Wenger must decide whether to include Sanchez, who received a mixed reception from sections of the crowd after replacing the unusually impressive Welbeck for the closing stages.
He said he had a meeting with the South American striker about his future, but would only report that the player expressed his desire and willingness to play in all competitions.
He even considered playing him against Bournemouth and said: “You know how it is when you don’t win, people find every problem for you, but he was not completely physically ready to start three games in one week and certainly for Chile as well he was not completely ready as well.”
Petr Cech indicated afterwards Sanchez still has support among the players, but it is clearly not a united feeling throughout the Arsenal ‘family.’
With Francis Coquelin sustaining a hamstring injury towards the end of this game, Wenger will make many changes for Cologne, but he is wary of taking the competition too lightly as he bids to return to the Champions League at the first attempt.
“At least it’s a new experience for us,” Wenger smiled. “We will take it seriously, but as I said, the priority is to focus on the Premier League and as well to manage to combine the two until December and at least qualify.
“Thursday to Sunday morning is short as well, but I have to think about all of that, but overall you have to win at home - you know how it is when you don’t win at home. We have seen enough games and overall we want a team who can win the game.”
Cech 7; Koscielny 6, Mustafi 6, Monreal 6; Bellerin 6, Xhaka 5, Ramsey 7 (Coquelin 67, 6), Kolasinac 7; Ozil 6, Welbeck 8 (Sanchez 75, 6); Lacazette 8 (Giroud 75, 6).
Ospina, Mertesacker, Iwobi, Walcott.
Begovic 8; S Cook 5, Ake 6, Mings; 5 (Francis 45, 6) Daniels 6, Gosling 5, Arter 5; King 6, Fraser 5 (Ibe 38, 5); Defoe 4 (Mousset 70, 5).
Boruc, Surman, L Cook, Pugh, A Smith.
Anthony Taylor 6/10
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