Champions League last 16, 2nd leg
Arsenal (1) v Bayern Munich (5)
Tonight: Emirates Stadium, 7.45pm
TV: TV3, BT Sport
Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Gre)
Bet: Arsenal 23/10, Bayern Munich 23/20, Draw 13/5
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal’s recent wretched run will not impact on his decision to stay as manager after claiming talk of a training ground bust-up involving Alexis Sanchez was “completely false”.
The 67-year-old has seen his future questioned in recent weeks with his contract up in the summer and a string of poor results and inept performances leading to an increase in supporter pressure.
Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Liverpool was a fourth defeat in six games across all competitions – a run which was left Arsenal’s hopes of success in the Premier League and Champions League in tatters.
The Gunners host Bayern Munich tonight but need to overcome a 5-1 deficit if they are to advance into the last eight, while Wenger’s men sit fifth in the Premier League, two points adrift of the top four.
Wenger has maintained he would make a decision on his future either this month or next and said any recent performances would not sway his thinking.
“Well, I take a bigger picture,” he said when asked if he had boxed himself into a corner having opted to not announce his intentions.
“You do not make this kind of decision focusing on one result or two bad results. You have to take a bigger picture and see (if) can you take this club to the next level, take yourself to the next level. Are you ready to pay the price for that?
“But as well this decision is not necessarily linked with two weeks out of 20 years you know so that’s basically...I don’t feel I box myself in a corner.”
Wenger came in for new flack when he opted to drop Sanchez for Saturday’s defeat at Anfield, with the Chile forward coming on at half-time and laying on Danny Welbeck’s consolation strike.
Several reports claimed he was left out due to an incident with his team-mates before the match and he was said to have walked out in the middle of a training session last week after an argument.
Wenger claimed after Saturday’s game Sanchez had been left out for tactical reasons.
He trained with the squad as normal on the eve of the Bayern clash and shook hands with Wenger as he made his way onto the club’s London Colney training pitch.
And, speaking to the media after the training session, Wenger insisted there are no issues with Sanchez - even if some of his behaviour can be “excessive” at times.
“I am not aware, nothing at all,” he said.
“I explained after the game I decided to go for a more direct option, that was the unique reason for my decision.”
Asked directly if the reports were true, Wenger said: “Completely false. I understand you have to fill newspapers. All the rest, his attitude - he’s a committed player and sometimes has excessive behaviours but you have that many times in the history of every squad.
“I shook hands with him on Saturday morning and after the game. You decided I did not shake hands. I shake hands everyday with Alexis Sanchez.
“That is the most important thing, that we focus on what’s important and not the individual. Alexis played in all the games and when we didn’t perform away from home, we lost as well.
“We lost at Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea, and that’s what I think is the most important thing, to focus and produce as a team.”
Wenger described his relationship with Sanchez as “honest and normal, like with every single player”.
There have been constant questions over Sanchez’s future but Wenger said it will be up to the club if Sanchez is still an Arsenal player next season.
“Alexis has 15 months of his contract so the decision of ‘will he be here or not?’ will depend completely on Arsenal Football Club and not on anybody else,” he said.
“The definition of a happy person is very difficult, I have never found an ideal situation. A happy performer on the football front is a player who comes out of a game and has won it and has performed well.
“I hope he will be very happy tomorrow night. Let’s not project ourselves too far. Short-term happiness is easier to get that long-term happiness, so let’s just focus on short term.”
Meanwhile Wenger has asked for “lucid rage” from his players against Bayern as they look to achieve a miracle result.
“What you expect is that you go out there with a mixture of lucid rage,” he added.
“(That means) Total commitment, but not a silly one because you have as well, in our game always to make intelligent decisions, to make the optimal decision and for that you need a good combination of commitment but also to keep your vision.”
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