The Arsenal manager elected to do without his top scorer and leading provider of assists for the visit to Anfield for purely tactical reasons, instead deploying a front three of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the intention of playing more “direct” football.
Wenger’s plans were thrown into disarray within the first 10 minutes when Roberto Firmino gave Liverpool the lead, Sadio Mane adding a second before the interval.
Sanchez was introduced immediately after half-time for the struggling Francis Coquelin and Arsenal were soon the better team. The Chilean provided the assist for Danny Welbeck and came close to scoring the equaliser in injury time, though Joel Matip’s block would start a move that culminated in Georginio Wijnaldum netting Liverpool’s third.
Though it seemed clear that Arsenal would have been a more fearsome opponent had their star striker been available Wenger insisted there was more to the defeat than simply the absence of Sanchez.
“I don’t think there’s any need to go into any individual explanation,” he said. “What was good in the second half was our collective performance.
“What was not good in the first half was our collective performance. For me, that’s a much more rational explanation than the rest.
“You focus on what you want. For every single player, it’s the same.
“Everybody tells you that you need to buy strikers and then when you have them, everybody asks why you don’t play all of them. It’s impossible.”
Explaining his decision to bench Sanchez before the match Wenger said he intended to play a more “direct” style of play, looking to get the ball swiftly to Giroud in a bid to counter Liverpool’s press.
The tactical shift failed. Giroud did not have a single touch in the Liverpool penalty area in the first half. Nor did any of his team-mates.
However when it was put to Wenger that his team had not gone route one in the first half the Arsenal manager emphatically disagreed.
“We did go direct in the first half,” he said. “What I call direct is that the goalkeeper kicks straight to his strikers. That’s what we did.
“We didn’t create many chances. We had some dangerous situations and we didn’t make enough of our corners. We had good situations on corners where we didn’t do very well on the delivery.
“With the players we had on the pitch, we should have made more of these opportunities because Liverpool are vulnerable from corners.”