Arsene Wenger says he does not “regret” his choice not to start Alexis Sanchez against Liverpool on Saturday evening and revealed he made the decision because he wanted a more “direct” approach from his Arsenal side.
Arsenal fell 3-1 to Liverpool at Anfield after goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum knocked Wenger’s side out of the top four in the Premier League.
Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck started ahead of the Chilean, who came on after half-time and provided the assist for Welbeck’s goal shortly before the hour mark.
Having earlier told BT Sport that his choice to bench Sanchez was “always debatable,” Wenger said he still stood by both his forward and his decision.
“The regret is to have lost the game,” Wenger told a news conference when asked if he regretted Sanchez’s omission. “The fact that we lacked pace in our first half was down, in my opinion, to the fact we had a lack of competition.
“The thinking was that we had to go more direct and I wanted to play two players who were strong in the air because we decided to go more direct.
“I believe in the second half it was easier for the strikers and you could see a different performance from Giroud and Welbeck because we dominated the midfield much more.”
“Everybody will come to the same conclusion, but I’m strong enough and lucid enough to analyse the impact, and I don’t deny that Alexis Sanchez is a great player. I bought him, I always played him. A decision like that is not easy to make, but you have to stand up for it.”
Wenger believes Arsenal were much improved after the interval and could have salvaged at least a point from the game.
However, he insisted the defeat is not totally down to Sanchez’s absence from the starting XI.
“I think in the first half we suffered from a lack of rhythm in competition — that’s what I thought would happen,” Wenger added. “It was a game of two halves In the second half we responded very well and could have come back to 2-2. I feel we were a bit unlucky with some decisions as well.
“What was good in our second half was our collective performance, what was not good in our in first half was the collective performance. That’s, for me, a much more rational explanation than the rest.
“You [the media] focus on what you want. I believe it’s the same for every player. Everybody tells you that you need to buy strikers and when you have them everybody says: ‘Why do you not keep them all on the pitch?’ But it’s impossible.”