Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted the decision to leave Alexis Sanchez out of the starting line-up against Chelsea was not a hint the Chilean’s future lies away from the club.
Sanchez has again been linked with Manchester City, after a proposed move in the summer broke down, and is also now free to talk to European clubs as he enters the last six months of his contract.
Wenger brought Sanchez off the bench at Stamford Bridge and was rewarded with a bright display, which the Gunners boss said showed the forward’s commitment to Arsenal remained.
“The team selection has nothing to do with the transfer market,” Wenger said.
“I want him to stay because I believe he is a very important player for us. When he came on, he created straightaway a danger.
“Sanchez plays every game. Sometimes a breather helps him a little bit.
“This is a guy who is completely focused on playing football. He can make a difference between what is going on outside and what is going on on the pitch.”
Wenger also confirmed that midfielder Francis Coquelin is close to completing a move to Valencia, and suggested 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles – who played at left wing-back against Chelsea – could be in contention to replace him.
“Maitland-Niles had an outstanding performance tonight,” Wenger said.
“He’s a defensive midfielder, basically, so at some stage what he’s doing at the moment will help him develop as a player.
“We have Monreal and Kolasinac injured. When they come back, that opens up a position for him in midfield.”