Arsene Wenger insists all of his Arsenal players care as much about winning as Alexis Sanchez after he defended the forward’s furious reaction to Tuesday’s draw at Bournemouth.
Sanchez cut an animated figure at the conclusion of the enthralling 3-3 draw, where the Gunners came back from three goals down with 20 minutes remaining. His frustration was picked up by the television cameras, and it was reported on Thursday morning that he was then silent in the dressing room as other players celebrated an impressive comeback.
The Chile international got the ball rolling with a diving header before Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud struck to seal a point against the 10 men of Bournemouth, but the result still saw Arsenal lose ground on some of their Premier League title rivals.
Wenger’s men now sit fifth in the table, having been permanent fixtures in the top four since September, and Sanchez failed to hide his disappointment for much of the game on the south coast, arguing with Aaron Ramsey during a miserable first half, angrily throwing his gloves to the ground at full-time and storming down the tunnel.
The 28-year-old has yet to sign a contract extension at the Emirates Stadium with suggestions he is searching for parity with the league’s best players before agreeing to new terms.
But Wenger says Sanchez’s reaction was only a reflection of how the whole squad felt.
“They care as much as he does, don’t worry,” the Frenchman said.
“Everybody has his way. The players are frustrated. There was no celebration in the dressing room; everybody was disappointed that they didn’t win the game.
“There is no hierarchy of intensity of desire to win at that level. Everybody wants to win.”
Asked about Sanchez’s negative body language, the Frenchman replied: “Well, what is surprising there? You want to win the games and when you don’t win, you are unhappy – it is normal.
“Without passion, you do not come back after 70 minutes from three goals down in the Premier League.
“First of all it is exceptional, it doesn’t often happen in the Premier League and you need a special response, which is what happened.
“We wanted to win the game, and we didn’t win the game so we are all frustrated. Of course (he is fine).”
Sanchez featured in all of Arsenal’s festive fixtures and has impressed for much of the season, either playing centrally or on the wing as he did at Bournemouth.
Famous for never wanting to be rested, Wenger has hinted he may take the opportunity to re-energise Sanchez by not involving him in Saturday’s third-round FA Cup tie at Preston.
“He always wants to play,” Wenger said of his number seven.
“On one side when I don’t play him, people say ‘why don’t you play him?’ and on the other hand I am criticised for using him too much.
“But I always planned in my head, no matter what happens, in January he will need a breather. What we forget is when they go away on international games, they travel to Chile.
“You have to give them a breather at some stage – mentally and physically, because at the moment he is a bit jaded. You could see that he is tired.
“He is respectful (of such decisions). He can have sometimes emotional reactions but face to face he is always very respectful.”
Wenger was slightly critical of Giroud’s celebration of the 92nd-minute equaliser as, with four minutes of added time remaining, his team-mates attempted to get the match restarted immediately as they searched for a winner.
“Of course (I wanted him to get on with the game),” he said when asked about Giroud, who celebrated by recreating the “scorpion kick” goal he scored in the New Year’s Day win over Crystal Palace.
“I understand both sides, because at 3-0 down in the head of the players the game is lost, but you still want the guys to take the ball and put it in the middle of the pitch.
“Giroud is a winner as well. He is a fighter. A winner. I can understand Giroud. He thought the game was lost, it was 92 minutes. You score. You don’t lose.
“We can understand that but, ideally, you want not to waste time any more. I can understand his response. He scores goal after goal and he scores important goals.
“The 3-3, he gave two assists on the night. You can understand that he is happy.”