In today’s otherwise uneventful 4-0 win over 2017-18 Championship runners-up Swansea City, Alexis Sanchez scored one of those goals, in the 73rd minute, and was substituted five minutes later for Danny Welbeck. Alexis, fierce competitor that he is, did not take kindly to being substituted; he stormed off the pitch, didn’t really acknowledge anyone as he sat down, and then did this for a while.
This, of course, set off a string of reaction and discussion, in which Sanchez’ attitude and sportsmanship were called into question, because no sportsman is ever allowed to be anything but a badge-kissing, smiling, goal-scoring robot for their club, right? Especially a player who is currently in some fairly high-profile contract negotiations and who might leave at the end of his current contract?
As you may have been able to intuit from that last sentence, I’m not one to question or criticize things like this, or even read too much in to them - Alexis, like all elite-level athletes, is bred to play. He wants to play all the time, and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be who he is. Athletes run as much on adrenalin as anything else during games, and that adrenalin is turned up to the max for the 90+ minutes a player expects to be on the pitch.
So, especially after a good performance and a goal, of course an Alexis-type player’s going to be disappointed and angry to be subbed off. I would be too. So I don’t have a problem with it, and apparently Arsene Wenger doesn’t either:
All the players are frustrated when they come off, some show it, some not. I am long enough in the job to know that.
And he goes a bit further and shows a more nuanced view a little later in the same interview:
every culture is different. Some South Americans are a bit different to Europeans, Southern Europeans are different to northern Europeans. You have to respect that.
And that’s important - Wenger realizes that, even though they’re all athletes, people can have different reactions to different things. Does Wenger care? Does he have a preference as to what his players do when they’re subbed off?
No, I prefer nothing. I prefer to score goals and not to concede goals, that is all I like. But all the players like the game, I think after you are more extroverted. That’s minor. I think looking at the game tonight, that’s really minor, minor, minor.
Well, there you have it - that’s the entirety of Wenger’s reaction to...wait what there’s more? About him talking to Alexis after the game about his sulk?
We speak always, about everything. Honestly I cannot even answer. I don’t look, I don’t look at that. I look at how well the players do who come on, how comfortable they are, because Danny Welbeck has not played for two years. That’s for me much more important than an individual response.
There’s really not much more he, we, or anyone needs to say about it. It was a minor thing, it meant nothing, and Wenger doesn’t care about stuff like that, so don’t let yourself get distracted by it either.