Arsene Wenger has no excuses after making a terrible decision to drop Alexis Sanchez; Liverpool trio are firing again

Five things we learned: Sanchez gives Arsenal their bite back, poor refereeing decisions show video replays are a must and can Wenger justify staying next season?

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Wenger has no excuses – he made a terrible call

The decision to drop Alexis Sanchez simply beggars belief. In what circumstances does it make sense to drop the player with the most goals and most assists this season, who is also your standout player by quite some way?

The decision proved a costly one as Liverpool came firing out of the blocks and took a 2-0 lead back into the dressing rooms at half time. Wenger reacted, and brought Sanchez on immediately in an admission that he got his team selection completely wrong.

His omission was all the more confusing given that Sanchez played little more than 14 minutes in Arsenal’s last encounter, the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Sutton United 12 days ago, and has had plenty of rest. He isn’t out of form, having scored three goals in his last two starts, so what came over Wenger? He claimed that Arsenal wanted a more direct approach with Olivier Giroud leading the attack, but when has that ever been Wenger’s way? It’s a decision that by all accounts is baffling.

Sanchez immediately gives Arsenal their bite back

The mere presence of Alexis Sanchez on the pitch visibly lifted the confidence of his teammates, and it wasn’t long before they found a way back into the game, Sanchez releasing Danny Welbeck to gallop forward and dink the ball over the onrushing Simon Mignolet.

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Sanchez's introduction sparked Arsenal into life (Getty)

The move was a stark contrast to the Arsenal side that played out the first half as if the match was a dead rubber, but that is hardly surprising. What must have been their reaction when Wenger informed the team that their best player was starting the match on the substitutes’ bench?

With each game, Sanchez is proving why he is indispensable for Arsenal, but unfortunately Arsenal are proving every week why he should really look elsewhere if he wants to win major trophies.

Mane, Coutinho and Firmino click once again

Liverpool’s lead trio looked unstoppable earlier in the season, but an injury to Philippe Coutinho and the African Cup of Nations duty for Sadio Mane severely disrupted Jurgen Klopp’s campaign. The three were not reunited until February, and it still took time for them to gel as they appeared to have lost the understanding that they built up over the first three months of the season.

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Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are showing signs of their early season form (Getty)

But that bond suddenly looks like it is back. They were brilliant against Tottenham and were even better in the first half against Arsenal as they tried to blow away the Gunners early on. Mane is the spark that drives them forward, and it’s his ability to run with the ball at full speed that causes defenders to second guess where he is going and draws out the mistakes that he feeds off.

Standard of refereeing proves video technology is now a must

Kevin Friend at Manchester United, Anthony Taylor at Swansea and Bobby Madley at Liverpool. All three  made extremely poor decisions during Saturday’s Premier League action, and it is yet another example of why officials need help to get what are quite simple decisions right.

Madley had to show Emre Can a second yellow card when he upended Theo Walcott to halt a counter attack, minutes after doing the same against Sanchez. But after rolling on the floor for a over a minute claiming injury, Madley chose not to even warn the midfielder, instead booking Granit Xhaka for dissent - a correct call but not the decision that needed to be made.

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Emre Can was lucky not to be given a second booking for a foul on Theo Walcott (not pictured) (Getty)

If there is an official with complete access to video replays at the click of a button, the man in the middle can quickly ask for guidance, receive it in under a minute and make the right call rather than one that leaves a sense of injustice out on the pitch. Video replays have proven successful across the board, with rugby, cricket and tennis all the better for the introduction of new technology.

Even football has benefitted with the addition of goalline technology now clearing up even the closest of debates, so why is football’s authorities so scared of doing what just about everyone else can see needs to be done.

It’s getting very hard for Wenger to argue his own case

Arsene Wenger says he will make up his own mind over whether he will be Arsenal manager next season, but it must be getting awfully hard for him to convince himself that he’s still the right man for the job. Another Bayern Munich mauling in the Champions League, another Premier League collapse when they were expected to make the running for the title this season and now not even the top four is a guarantee.

It makes very grim reading for Wenger, who has seen something like this before in 2014 when his contract was last up for renewal. On that occasion, winning the FA Cup gave him enough belief that the side was moving in the right direction, and he agreed a new deal to remain with the club.

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Wenger needs to ask himself if he is taking this team forwards? (Getty)

Three years down the line, has Wenger taken Arsenal forward? It’s hard to answer yes to that question, and that should be setting off alarm bells inside his own head.

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