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.”
Forward Salah, the Reds’ top scorer with 23 goals in all competitions this season, has missed the last two matches because of a groin problem.
Sturridge has not been involved in a game since the Champions League victory over Spartak Moscow on December 6 having suffered with illness and injury.
Liverpool announced on their website on Wednesday that the pair had taken part in a session earlier in the day at Melwood.
Coutinho signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with Barca on Monday as a transfer that could be worth up to £142million to Liverpool was finalised.
Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, his compatriot, on Wednesday posted a message on Instagram saying “Liverpool is no longer the same without” the “magical” Coutinho.
Fala meu parca, poxa Liverpool já não é o mesmo without the magical 🧙♀️ Mano , Desejo o infinito de Sucesso pra você, que você desfrute a Vida. e realize todos os teus sonhos irmão!! DEUS esteja sempre protegendo VOCÊ e toda a FAMÍLIA !! Foi uma uma honra El Mago 🎩 jogar esse tempo junto contigo🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻 👊🏽
Accompanied by a picture of the two players in Liverpool shirts with arms around each other, the message said: “Liverpool is no longer the same without the magical bro, I wish the infinite success for you, that you enjoy life. And realise all your dreams brother!! God is always protecting you and the whole family!! It was an honour wizard (to) play this time together with you.”
Romelu Lukaku is seeking legal advice over the claim by Everton‘s major shareholder Farhad Moshiri that a voodoo message influenced his decision to leave the club in the summer, a representative of the Manchester United striker told the BBC on Wednesday.
“Romelu’s decision had nothing to do with voodoo,” the Belgian international’s representative told the BBC. “He distances himself from these beliefs and this statement and will now see what judicial steps can be taken in relation to them.”
Moshiri had told Everton shareholders at their AGM on Tuesday that a phone call Lukaku had with his mother torpedoed a new contract with the Toffees that was 99.9% done, with the club prepared to pay him a reported £140,000 ($189,000) a week.
“He said he was on a pilgrimage in Africa or somewhere and he had a voodoo and got the message that he needs to go to Chelsea,” said Moshiri, although the player was to snub Chelsea ultimately and go to United for £75million.
Lukaku has been left seething by the claim.
His representative said the 24-year-old Manchester United striker’s decision had nothing to do with voodoo as he was a Roman Catholic, and that Lukaku simply wished to play for a club with a better chance of winning silverware.
“Romelu is very catholic and voodoo is not part of his life or his beliefs,” the representative said.
“He simply had no faith in Everton and no confidence in Mr Moshiri’s project. That is why he did not want to sign on any condition.
“He wanted to make the next step in his career and wanted the security to be able to leave.”
Provided by AFP Sport