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Questions about Alexis' future, possible rift irk Wenger after win

LONDON -- Arsene Wenger hailed "fantastic" Alexis Sanchez for finally delivering the kind of performance Arsenal need after his double in Thursday's 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, but was put-off by questions about the Chile star's future at the club.

Sanchez put in the type of match-winning display that was commonplace over the past couple of seasons but have been rare this campaign amid uncertainty about his future.

He made it 2-1 with a stinging strike in the 62nd minute and then added Arsenal's third four minutes later, running onto a perfect ball from Jack Wilshere and slotting a calm finish into the net.

"I felt he was very good tonight. From the first minute on he was focused, and simple again," Wenger told a news conference. "This kind of Sanchez is a great football player, as we know him. And that's the kind of performance you want from him."

Sanchez had pushed for a move to Manchester City in the summer but saw a Deadline Day deal collapse when Arsenal failed to bring in a replacement. However, he is widely expected to leave the Gunners either in January or this summer, when his contract expires.

Wilshere's contract also only has six months to run, but he made another strong case for being handed a new deal with a controlled performance in midfield. And Wenger said both he and Sanchez showed that their contract situations aren't affecting their play.

"They are questioned always, people, when they don't have long contrats," Wenger said. "But the best way to show they are committed is to deliver that kind of performances.

"For Jack, he's coming back in a good competitive shape. And I feel he he gives something to the team at the moment that is very interesting. And on top of that today he gave a great final ball, that's what you want from him."

Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring a goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace.
Alexis Sanchez finally gave Arsenal the performance the club have needed from him on Thursday.

But the Arsenal boss bristled when questioned again about Sanchez's mindset, and the possibility of a January sale.

"Look, every press conference has to represent a psychological problem. If we could talk about football, it would be better," he said. "I'm not a specialist in psychology, I'm here to comment on the game."

Thursday's win gave Wenger a win in his record-equalling match as a Premier League manager but he was asked again about Arsenal's players showing an apparent lack of desire to celebrate Sanchez's goals.

Wenger, though, went into familiar mode when asked whether there was a fracture in the camp.

"No, not at all. I did not see that,'' he told Sky Sports.

"I am not fearful [of a bid coming in], but that is a subject that will turn up because of his contract situation.

"I have said that many times since the start of the season so I can only repeat what I have said."

Wenger celebrated his 468th win of 810 league games at the Gunners and it came after a nervy finish when James Tomkins scored late on for Palace.

"It was convincing, the second half was more difficult than the first because we didn't take advantage of the chances we created,'' Wenger added.

"When you come here it's a difficult game for everybody -- to go home with the three points you need to suffer a little bit, and we did that tonight.''

Wilshere is hopeful of tying up a new deal in the near future.

"I spoke to the boss and he said he will speak to me so we'll see when he speaks to me, I am sure it will be done,'' he said.

On his improving form, the midfielder added: "It's difficult to say, I was happy with my form last year, I'm probably better now, I feel better, I feel fitter, I'm getting better each game and I am enjoying my football.

"Another game, another three points I am happy.''

Defeat for Palace sees their impressive eight-game unbeaten run end.

Boss Roy Hodgson said: "At 1-1 I thought we were playing well at that point and we were on the front foot, but the second goal was so difficult, to go down 2-1 was a difficult task.

"But you have to give the players credit, at 3-1 a lot of teams would have capitulated but we certainly didn't do that.

"Our second goal was a scant reward for the chances we had in the second half, but we were beaten by the better team on the day.''

Press Association contributed to this report.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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