Sanchez is staying, insists Arsenal boss Wenger
As summer of speculation over Chile star's future goes on, Gunners enjoy a convincing win over Benfica in the Emirates Cup
30 July, 2017 — By Paul Cowling
ARSENAL 5, BENFICA 2
A DEFIANT Arsene Wenger has insisted Alexis Sanchez will be at the Emirates next season.
Wenger was speaking following Arsenal’s emphatic 5-2 win over Benfica in the Emirates Cup.
He again refused to be drawn on Sanchez’s contract dispute, but said: “He is flying back on Tuesday. I am not going to talk about what we have discussed, but he (Sanchez) is staying.”
With Sanchez absent, Theo Walcott put down a marker for the new season with a livewire display and two goals against the Portuguese club.
Kitted out in an unfamiliar two-tone blue, Arsenal also had a slightly unfamiliar feel to their starting line-up, with England youth players Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson given starts by Wenger.
Playing out on the wing, Nelson soon caught the eye with his quick, tricky runs and cutbacks.
“He (Nelson) has had an encouraging pre-season, and he has shown he has the potential,” said Wenger.
“He has shown that he is not fazed by the occasion, and he looks like he has the confidence to play at this level.”
On four minutes, Nelson’s pinpoint cross was met by Olivier Giroud, but the Frenchman’s goal-bound header was clawed away by goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Arsenal continued to dominate, but it was Benfica who took the lead on 12 minutes when Franco Cervi drilled in a low shot past David Ospina.
Arsenal got a deserved equaliser on 24 minutes, when new signing Sead Kolasinac used brute strength on the by-line to cross for Walcott who fired home from close range.
There was further excitement when a pitch invader vented his considerable ire at Wenger, but was led away by three stewards.
Asked later about the apparent confrontation with the fan, Wenger laughed it off. He said: “He looked like he wanted to talk to me. But I did think the stewards needed to calm down.”
With play resumed, Walcott was soon at it again, with an easy tap-in on 33 minutes as Arsenal made it 2-1. But in the 40th minute Benfica were back level as Salvio made it 2-2.
This was fast turning into an entertaining game played out in teeming rain.
Early in the second half, Arsenal went back in front when Lisandro Lopez turned a Walcott cross into the net. Walcott was turning on the style, but his familiar inconsistency was on show, too, as he blazed over with the goal at his mercy in the 58th minute.
Nelson continued to impress, and another precision cross was turned in by Giroud to make it 4-2 in the 64th minute. It was 5-2 when Alex Iwobi let rip with a scorcher on 71.
The roars soon got louder when big-money signing Alexandre Lacazette came on for his Emirates debut in the closing period. And, while Lacazette couldn’t add to the Arsenal goal count, this was a fine performance from the Gunners, and especially Walcott, that will have fans expecting more with a tough season ahead.
ARSENAL: Ospina, Maitland-Niles (Monreal, 75) Mertesacker, Holding (Chambers, 45), Kolasinac, Coquelin (Elneny, 37) Xhaka (Ramsey, 75), Nelson (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 75 ); Walcott ( Lacazette, 75), Giroud, Iwobi (Ozil, 75)
Subs not used: Koscielny, Welbeck, Bellerin, Martinez