Arsenal cannot finish in the Premier League top four without Alexis Sanchez, warns Frank Lampard

Arsene Wenger's side are currently fifth in the Premier League table, with the manager deciding to drop Sanchez for last weekend's defeat at Liverpool

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Arsenal cannot finish in the top four this season unless they have Alexis Sanchez in their side, according to former England midfielder Frank Lampard.

Sanchez was dropped by manager Arsene Wenger for the weekend trip to Liverpool, where Arsenal went 2-0 behind inside the first half, and the Chile international was subsequently brought on at half-time.

Much has been made of Sanchez’s omission since last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat, but while Wenger insisted on Monday that the decision was taken due to his desire for a more tactical approach, The Independent has been told that a training ground bust-up between Sanchez and one of his Arsenal teammates was the cause of the selection change, with Wenger deciding to discipline his star player.

That has led to the increasing expectation that Sanchez will leave the club in the summer, with just 12 months let to run on his current contract come the end of the season, and with Arsenal currently fifth in the Premier League, they are struggling to guarantee Champions League football next season.

They take on Bayern Munich in the second leg of their last-16 clash on Tuesday night, but already trail the German champions 5-1 on aggregate after a humbling first-leg defeat at the Allianz Arena, and Lampard warned that if Wenger doesn’t restore Sanchez to the starting line-up, he does not believe that Arsenal will be able to finish inside the top four in what would be a first for Wenger during his 20-year reign at the club.

“What I find difficult for Arsene Wenger here is that he's not in a real position of strength at the minute,” Lampard said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.

“He's been taking some criticism himself and the team. When you've got your star man and you try and discipline him and you go to Liverpool which was a massive game for them and you leave him out... if you leave him out and Arsenal win you've got to go with that team.

“But can that Arsenal team without him finish in the top four? I'm not sure they can. If you lose, as they did, then you've got a real problem too. I don't think they've got a particularly strong dressing room.”

Lampard’s co-analyst, Jamie Carragher, had sympathy for Wenger, although he also added that he wasn’t accepting his explanation for why Sanchez was left out of the squad at Anfield last weekend. Sanchez came off the substitutes’ bench to lay on a goal for Danny Welbeck and get Arsenal back into the game, only for a late Georginio Wijnaldum strike to secure the result in Liverpool’s favour.

“I don't believe Arsene Wenger for a minute but I totally understand why a manager would say that to protect the player and to protect the club,” Carragher explained.


Sanchez started the match on the bench after a training ground row (EPA)

“There's been a lot of stuff about Sanchez in the last few weeks. His demeanour on the pitch and his reaction when he comes off which hasn't been great.

“But I did find it strange because I think when you're disciplining a player you either completely put him out of the squad. If he is a problem and he's not great around the place you make that decision.

“You don't want him on the coach or travelling on the plane or in the dressing room or in the hotel. You'd completely banish him. So all he's basically done is miss 45 minutes of football and the fact he was on the bench heightens the story even more.”

Sanchez is expected to return to the starting line-up for Arsenal’s home tie against Bayern, but attacking midfielder Mesut Özil will miss the match through illness, despite taking part in training on Monday morning.