LONDON. — Alexis Sanchez has accused his Arsenal team-mates of “lacking hunger” in an attack that goes a long way towards explaining recent tepid performances against Manchester United and Swansea.
Back-to-back defeats have put a massive dent in the Gunners’ title hopes, with fans angry at lacklustre displays against below strength teams at both Old Trafford and also the Emirates on Wednesday night.
It means Arsenal go into today’s north London derby six points adrift of Leicester and three behind Tottenham as the season enters its final 10 games.
Sanchez, who has not scored in the Premier League since October, has scarcely helped the situation, but it emerged that in an interview with a South American TV company last Friday, he was scathing about the attitude of the rest of the players, questioning whether they had a winning mentality.
“If we go out on to to the pitch with hunger to become champions, to win the Premier League or the Champions League we can achieve it,” he told DirecTV.
“There are great players here, I train with them daily and they have got the mentality and the desire to win, but sometimes we lack the hunger, the mentality that we are winning 1-0 when we go out on to the pitch.
“Sometimes we lack this hunger to believe that we can be champions… (We need) to go out on to the pitch feeling that we are already winning 1-0.”
Furthermore, Sanchez suggested that things have even deteriorated in the last 12 months.
“I remember a game against Manchester United last year,” he added. “The lads looked hungry for silverware as we took to the pitch.
“We crushed them in the first 20 minutes and went 3-0 up. We were hungry and brimming with confidence that day.”
Arsene Wenger’s side face a crucial north London derby at fellow title challengers Tottenham today on the back of successive league defeats and facing growing scrutiny about the team’s perceived lack of character.
In all competitions, the Gunners are without a win in four games, a run that also includes the FA Cup draw with second tier Hull and a home defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League.
Having been regarded as favourites by many to end their 12-year wait to regain the Premier League title, Wenger’s side risk seeing the campaign turn into one of under-achievement.
A third victory in four visits to White Hart Lane would restore belief they can close the six-point gap on current leaders Leicester and move the Gunners level on points with Tottenham in second place.
But after the dismal midweek home defeat against Swansea that came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Manchester United, Chile winger Sanchez has raised the delicate issue of the squad’s desire to succeed.
Wenger admitted Arsenal now face a testing challenge as they attempt to bounce back from a morale-sapping loss to a side still battling to secure its Premier League future.
“Football is football, it is cruel sometimes. We need to live with that and show that we can bounce back,” Wenger said.
“Tottenham’s defeat (against West Ham) means we are mathematically still in the game. We have to bounce back quickly and realise that we have a difficult game on Saturday and prepare well.”
Arsenal’s cause will not be helped by the loss of goalkeeper Petr Cech (groin) and centre-back Laurent Koscielny (calf).
David Ospina will deputise in goal and Wenger said: “Petr had a little groin problem before the game and I think he struggled a little bit tonight.
“I don’t know how long he will be out for, but he will not play on Saturday. I trust Ospina completely.”
Like Arsenal, Tottenham go into the game having failed to increase the pressure on Leicester following the midweek defeat at West Ham that meant they passed up the chance to go top for the first time since 2009.
But Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris insists it is too early to be talking about the outcome of the title race with 10 games still remaining.
“It’s still a long run until the end and a lot of things can happen,” he said.“A lot of teams can lose points, so we just need to be consistent until the end. I think it’s too early to talk about the title.
“We don’t have to put more pressure than there is. We just need to be focused, keep going in the right way.
“The mentality is great in the team. We work a lot so we are ready to suffer until the end.
“Mentally we are strong enough and we are doing more than we were expected to at the start of the season.
“We just need to be calm about that and carry on. The target is to finish in the top four and if we can get more, we will get more, but step by step, there are a lot of games ahead.”— AFP.