After missing Arsenal defeat Alexis Sánchez close to Old Trafford move.
Arsène Wenger says he expects Alexis Sánchez to leave Arsenal in the “next 48 hours”, with Manchester United having emerged as the forward’s preferred destination. The manager omitted Sánchez from the squad he took to Bournemouth for their 2-1 defeat on Sunday, although he remained a major talking point.
Wenger explained he did not select Sánchez because of the knife-edged nature of his situation and suggested his transfer could even have happened during the buildup to the Bournemouth game – a distraction he could not have tolerated. Wenger described Sánchez as having been on standby and the Chilean did not travel to the south coast with the rest of the Arsenal squad on Saturday.
United have indicated a readiness to outbid Manchester City for Sánchez and to offer him more lucrative personal terms, and they have turned the 29-year-old’s head. He had looked certain to join City and enjoy a reunion with Pep Guardiola, the manager under whom he played for one season at Barcelona.
City almost got him for £60m last summer and they have indicated a willingness to pay £20m for him this month. But United have moved ahead of their crosstown rivals and there is a confidence at Old Trafford that they are poised to pull off a coup. City are not willing to raise their offer.
Sánchez’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, is due in England for negotiations and Wenger made it clear the saga had entered its end game.
“It will be decided in the next 48 hours,” Wenger said. “It was a bit difficult for Alexis [to play at Bournemouth] because he was on standby, a little bit. That’s why I decided not to do it [select him].
“He did not refuse to play. He would have played but it’s a difficult period for him. He’s always been committed until now but he could have moved yesterday, today or not.
“I don’t master the rhythm of it [the transfer] but it could happen today, tomorrow or not at all. That’s why I didn’t take a decision [to select him] – I didn’t want to travel with him and, suddenly, he goes somewhere.”
Wenger said that, if Sánchez left, he had been assured Arsenal would replace him. His No 1 target is the Bordeaux winger Malcom and a deal for him is believed to be close. A meeting to discuss personal terms with the Brazilian’s representatives took place in France on Sunday, with Arsenal expected to pay £45m for the 20-year-old.
Wenger was asked whether Malcom was the player he wanted. “It’s better I don’t come out on any specific name,” he said.
Guardiola also refused to comment on Sánchez after City’s 4-3 defeat by Liverpoolbut admitted they are in the market for new players. “We have the squad and I don’t know what will happen in this transfer window or if we will buy someone,” he said. “We have four competitions and a lot of games to play so we will try. You have to think about what you need to do. We have been thinking about what we need for a long time and it doesn’t change because of one result.”
Arsenal also have an interest in the United attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, whom they wanted in the summer of 2016 when he was leaving Borussia Dortmund. In the end he chose Old Trafford. Arsenal’s new head of scouting, Sven Mislintat, was the man that took Mkhitaryan to Dortmund.
We made the most difficult part and we were 1-0 up,” Wenger said. “And after that we made two very surprising mistakes, not even forced errors. It was just a lack of the right decision-making. Overall we come out of the game and you think: ‘How did we lose the game?’
“I would say as well we haven’t created enough with the possession we had. We looked a bit lacklustre in the final third, not sharp enough to create chances. We did not look dangerous enough. It’s very frustrating.
“I cannot say that the team hasn’t worked or not played with a good spirit. They were focused. The attitude is one thing but, at that level, it’s a combination of quality and attitude and today, I question more the quality of what we have created than the attitude of the players. The attitude of the players was strong.”