Arsene Wenger

Arsenal take positives from winning “total battle” at Chelsea

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LONDON — Arsenal took the moral victory at Chelsea on Sunday in a bruising draw against their London rivals at Stamford Bridge.

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They have yet to win a game away at a top six rival since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City back in January 2015 but the display on Sunday proved they have a blueprint for success away from home against the top teams.

Call it a moral victory, if you will.

Arsene Wenger‘s 3-4-3 formation has made the Gunners, overall, look more solid against a counter-attacking unit as they recovered from their ghastly defensive display away at Liverpool before the international break and thwarted Chelsea for the third time in as many games since the end of last season.

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Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with the mental toughness of his players in what he called a “total battle” in the sun in west London.

“I felt it was a game of total intensity where two teams went for it and it was a battle all over the pitch,” Wenger said. “We responded well in domains where we were questioned. I like when a team shows that kind of response. Overall, I feel that it is a deserved point. With a bit more freedom and inhibition we could have really won it. Overall it was important for us not to lose today and you could feel that in the team in the last 20 minutes with a little bit of that in our mind.”

Following their 4-0 mauling at Liverpool and defeat at Stoke City, it was understandable that any positive result away from home would have been welcomed.

Stopping a five-game losing streak at Chelsea in the PL was welcomed as Arsenal carried on where they left off from their FA Cup and Community Shield victories at Wembley against their London rivals.

“People forget that two months ago we beat Chelsea in a cup final and they don’t give you a cup, you know?” Wenger smiled. “It is true that you have to accept that when you deliver the kind of performance we had at Liverpool that you are criticized. You have only one way to respond. That’s on the pitch and that’s what we did today. Of course it was a question today of what will happen at least with the attitude, response and determination, it was vital for us, even above the result, to come out with a solid performance on that front.”

Wenger saw Shkodran Mustafi put in a solid, dominant display in central defense as he and Laurent Koscielny shackled Alvaro Morata and the Gunners had the better chances to win the game with Aaron Ramsey hitting the post, Alexandre Lacazette knocking the follow up over and Mustafi having a header correctly disallowed for offside.

Chelsea were frustrated in their first 0-0 draw since February 2016 as they were outbattled by Arsenal with David Luiz sent off late on as he lunged into a challenge on Saed Kolasinac and you could feel the Blues’ temper rising as the Gunners continued their shut down of Chelsea’s usually effective counter-attacks.

Antonio Conte brushed aside questions about Arsenal’s physicality knocking Chelsea out of their stride and reminded the assembled media of the Gunners’ quality.

“We suffered a bit in the middle of the first half but don’t forget, sometimes you forgot that Arsenal is one of the top six in England. For this reason we all know the type of game we have to face today against them,” Conte said. “Arsenal is a really good team, a strong team and they have a lot of top players. It is normal to find this situation when you play against them.”

Yet, this wasn’t a normal Arsenal performance as Wenger and his players substituted their usual panache for grit and their admirable free spirit for concentration.

The atmosphere among Arsenal’s players, fans and manager at the end of the game was far from euphoric but this felt like a step forward for Wenger’s men.

Arsene Wenger: Alexis Sanchez will “win the fans back”

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has backed Alexis Sanchez to have the Gunners faithful on his side very soon.

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Sanchez, 28, started on the bench for Arsenal’s 3-0 victory against Bournemouth on Saturday and he watched on as fellow strikers Danny Welbeck (twice) and Alexandre Lacazette scored.

When he came off the bench Sanchez was widely booed by the home fans at the Emirates Stadium as he is yet to sign a new contract and has less than 12 months left on his current deal at Arsenal. A move to Manchester City fell through on transfer deadline day and now he is with Arsenal until at least January 1.

The Chilean forward, who traveled to South America last week to compete in 2018 World Cup qualifiers after a abdominal injury, started in Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat at Liverpool in the Premier League before the international break, but wasn’t deemed fit enough to start against Bournemouth.

Speaking to the media, Wenger confirmed that Sanchez was rested as he continues to work his way back to full-fitness and he believes the fans will get behind him shortly.

“Alexis Sanchez is very focused on the Premier league and the Europa League and he wants to do well. He is still a bit short physically. He will be quickly back to his best,” Wenger said. “It was a serious performance, we played well all over the pitch. Alexis Sanchez will win the fans back, and win them back very quickly. We want to do well in Europe and we will put out a team that can win the game on Thursday.”

The Gunners have a grueling stretch of seven games in 17 days starting with a tough test against FC Koln on Thursday in the UEFA Europa League.

Sanchez, Arsenal’s leading goalscorer last season with 30 in all competitions, will be needed between now and January when the speculation around his future will ramp up once again.

He has the choice to agree a free transfer to a non-English team from January onwards but of course there’s still the chance he could remain at Arsenal and sign a new deal.

The Arsenal fans booing him may curtail any plans Sanchez has to stick around at the Emirates Stadium beyond this season…

Transfer negotiator Law to depart Arsenal soon

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Top Arsenal transfer chief Dick Law is preparing to leave the club after eight years in a Director of Football type role, albeit without the official title.

The club confirmed on Friday that the former scout and current transfer negotiator is set to step down due to family reasons. Law, formerly Arsenal’s chief scout in North and South America, took on the full-time role in 2009 to take over for David Dein. According to multiple reports in England, Law worked closely with manager Arsene Wenger and the two often saw eye to eye on transfer policy.

According to the Telegraph, the club has not decided whether to permanently replace Law yet, but chief executive Ivan Gazidis has set up an office at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, potentially signaling a larger, more involved role in transfer policy and negotiation.

This past transfer window was a struggle, with the club thinning the squad but also failing to bring in top targets, including Kylian Mbappe who met at length with Arsene Wenger but chose Paris Saint-Germain instead. The Gunners have struggled to start the season, and January could be a key month if the club continues to flounder through the first half of the season.

To help replace Law, Arsenal reportedly brought in Team Sky legal expert Huss Fahmy in June, but only on a temporary basis.

Back in May, Law explained to The Independent what his job with the club is exactly. “The area that I manage is called football operations,” Law said. “My job is to help the CEO and manager, in conjunction with the contract team, with squad planning, contract negotiations, negotiations with agents, player transfers, either in or out of the club, and coordination with the Arsenal academy.

Alexis Sanchez will return to his best at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger says

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is known for his unending faith in his players, and he hasn’t lost faith in Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez was minutes away from joining Manchester City last week as Arsenal tried to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco, but Lemar declined and as a result, the Sanchez deal was off. That disappointment for Sanchez was compounded with a pair of frustrating international defeats for Chile.

But Wenger believes that Sanchez, who only played in his first Premier League game of the season – Arsenal’s 4-0 blasting at Liverpool – before the transfer window, will return to his best this season.

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“I have no doubt about Alexis’ mind and mentality that people question,” Wenger said. “He needs to come back to full fitness, which he was not at Liverpool. It was his first game. He suffered, he had a negative experience now with Chile but he is strong mentally and hopefully he will be back very quickly to his best.”

Wenger also provided updates on a pair of injured players as well as his thoughts on a rumored proposal to close next year’s Premier League transfer window before the start of the season.

The Arsenal manager is a big proponent of closing the transfer window earlier, with numerous players not knowing whether they’re in or out of the team through the first few weeks of the season.

“Many things happen in the last second, and I regret that,” Wenger said. “That’s why I believe it’s important that we change that [transfer window] and close all that stuff before the championship starts.

“Even in the games, you sit there before the games and even in players’ minds they have no clarity. Are they in? Are they out? Are they half in? Are they half out? Are they tapped up in the afternoon of the game by people who want to get them out? It’s not the way to work and it’s uncomfortable. Every single manager in the league would agree that it’s time to kick that out before the season starts and not continue to have players in the dressing room who are half out and half in.”

Wenger also commented that Santi Cazorla is returning to running, nearly a year since his last match after suffering a lingering ankle injury that’s required multiple surgeries.

“The flexibility of his ankle looks good, his mobility is good and now it’s about getting back to full fitness without having any setbacks,” Wenger said. “It’s very difficult to predict when he will be available again. I think it’s very difficult to set a time. Not before Christmas, that’s why I didn’t involve him in the Europa League, but overall I hope that after Christmas he will be available.

“Yes [I think he’ll play at the highest level again],” added Wenger. “But he has not played for a year now. He’s had a few surgeries so you are always cautious to set a time or date, but overall, yes it looks positive.”

Wenger: Failing to sell Sanchez could cost Arsenal nearly $183 million

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The failure to sell Alexis Sanchez with one year left on his contract could cost Arsenal more than $91 million in the short term and $91 million in the long term.

That’s according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who said that the club missed out on recouping funds for Sanchez while admitting it would cost another $91 million to sign a significant player as a replacement. Sanchez can leave Arsenal on a free transfer next summer should the Gunners not sell him at a likely discounted rate in January.

“You take a Sánchez into the final year of his contract, you sacrifice 60-70million income and at the end of the season you will have to buy somebody for that amount of money,” Wenger said, via beIN Sports. “It has a huge price so at some stage you have to make a decision, you have to sacrifice one or two.”

Sanchez is coming off a rough week, having not been able to complete a proposed move to Manchester City compounded by two straight defeats with the Chilean National Team, suffering criticism from the Chilean fans and press. And just before the international break, Sanchez’s first appearance this season for Arsenal came in its 4-0 mauling from Liverpool.

In a post on his Instagram page, Sanchez hit out at the team’s critics.

“You get tired of being criticized with reason and without reason, you get tired of wanting to be defeated, you get tired of saying to yourself “I’ll get up again” after crying after a defeat, and you get tired of telling the world and people who are with you, that everything is going well,” Sanchez wrote. “And the worst, that no one ever realizes how that makes you feel … I have the back of Chile and it is a huge responsibility, that’s why I’m sorry that journalists and bad people criticize without understanding.”

It will be interesting to see whether Sanchez’s anger and disappointment affect his play, or whether he can put it behind him and lead Arsenal back up the Premier League table.