Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger denies rift with Alexis Sanchez

Monday March 6th, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez posted a cryptic comment online Monday following reports he was dropped from the starting lineup after training ground spat, invoking a century-old saying about a warrior.

Manager Arsene Wenger is sticking to the line that Arsenal’s top scorer was omitted at Liverpool on Saturday for tactical reasons. But after publicly shaking hands on the training field on Monday and dismissing suggestions of a rift, Wenger did say the Chilean’s behavior can be “excessive.”

The reports of splits in the camp come with Arsenal in trouble on the field. The team dropped to fifth place in the Premier League by losing at Liverpool and faces Champions League elimination on Tuesday unless it can overturn a 5-1 deficit against Bayern Munich.

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Several newspapers and the BBC reported on Sunday that Sanchez walked out of a training session last week and was involved in an angry exchange with teammates.

In his only public response, Sanchez brought up a 1911 maxim by G.K. Chesterton in an Instagram posting.

“The true warrior fights not because he hates the ones in front of him, but because he loves those behind him,” Sanchez wrote, slightly adjusting Chesterton’s original wording. “Let’(s) go Gunners. The only failure is not trying.”

Sanchez’s online comment came less than an hour after Wenger insisted there have been no significant problems with the player who has scored 20 goals this season.

“I decided to go for a more direct option in the game (at Liverpool). That was the unique reason,” Wenger said. “For the rest, his attitude. He is a committed player and sometimes with excessive behavior, but you have seen that many times in history in every squad.”

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Wenger described the reports about the training squabble involving the former Barcelona player as “completely false.”

“I understand you have to feed the newspaper and we respect that,” a calm Wenger said. “When you don’t win the games it’s not always down to real stories and we have to accept that.”

Sanchez, who is in the final 15 months of his Arsenal contract and has yet to sign a new deal, has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

“The decision if he is here next season will depend on Arsenal and nobody else,” Wenger said.

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