Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez 'loves to be here' - Arsene Wenger
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez's contract situation can work in Arsenal's favour by motivating him to show his quality -- and insists that the Chile forward "loves to be here."
Sanchez is set to make his first appearance of the season for the Gunners at Anfield on Sunday, in what looks likely to be his final campaign at the club. Sanchez has balked at signing a new contract but is set to stay at the Emirates as Wenger has steadfastly refused to sell his most valuable asset.
Even though Sanchez could leave for free next summer to join a rival -- with Manchester City seen as the most likely destination -- Wenger is refusing to give up hope that the forward will sign a new deal. And the Arsenal boss is choosing to look at the bright side of the situation, saying Sanchez now has increased motivation to play at his best to impress potential suitors.
"I think what is good is that our mutual interest is that he does well for us," Wenger said. "His interest is to do well. On top of that I deeply feel that he loves to be here and he loves the club. He arrives at a stage at 28, 29 where of course he looks at the quality of his contract, but I think he deeply loves to be here."
Wenger's relationship with Sanchez was thrown into the spotlight when the star forward was dropped at Anfield last season, following a training ground spat.
Questions about Sanchez's desire to stay at the club have resurfaced all summer in a drawn-out transfer saga but Wenger has continuously insisted that Arsenal is ready to sacrifice a hefty transfer fee by holding him to the final year of his contract.
His return against Liverpool on Sunday could allay some fan concerns about Sanchez's mindset, and Wenger has praised the Chile international for his attitude in recent weeks.
"He wants to play," Wenger said. "In a professional job I always think that you have to make sure with your commitment that the guy who pays you gets what he is paying you for. Alexis is in that mode and I think he will be until the last day he is here, he will give his best."
Arsenal will also get Laurent Koscielny back at Anfield after a suspension to boost the defence after two rocky showings in the 4-3 win over Leicester and the 1-0 loss at Stoke. Koscielny was needlessly sent off for a late tackle in the final league game of last season and also missed the FA Cup final win over Chelsea in May.
His suspension meant Wenger also rested him for the Community Shield, even though he was eligible for that game, and Wenger said it's been tough for the centre-back to deal with the consequences of his mistake.
"It's been very hard [for him], because I didn't even consider him for friendly games because I had to play some defenders. I think what hurt him a lot was to miss the cup final," Wenger said.
"He had a reaction in the final game of the season against Everton that was unlucky. He's a very quiet guy but sometimes he can get rushed. He thinks he always has the speed and the pace to win the tackle. In this case he didn't."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.