Arsenal manager, Arsene Wènger, has defended his decision to bench English Premier League joint top scorer, Alexis Sanchez, following the club’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, insisting he wanted more direct attacking threats.

Sanchez, who has 17 goals and nine assists in 26 league games this season, was a surprise omission from a starting XI already missing Mesut Özil due to the flu, with forwards, Danny Welbeck, and Olivier Giroud preferred by Wènger. The decision backfired as a listless Arsenal side found themselves 2-0 down by halftime, having to call on Sanchez, who set up Welbeck in the 57th minute.

Already dealing with mounting speculation regarding Sanchez’s future at the club, the Arsenal boss said in his post-game presser that the controversial decision to bench the Chilean was strictly tactical.

“The thinking was that we had to go more direct and I wanted to play two players who were strong in the air because we decided to go more direct.” –  Wènger

“I believe in the second half it was easier for the strikers and you could see a different performance from Giroud and Welbeck because we dominated the midfield much more.” – Wènger

“Everybody will come to the same conclusion, but I’m strong enough and lucid enough to analyse the impact, and I don’t deny that Alexis Sanchez is a great player. I bought him, I always played him. A decision like that is not easy to make, but you have to stand up for it.” – Wènger

The result leaves Arsenal two points behind third place Liverpool and fourth place Manchester City in the race for the Champions League places, though with a game in hand on the former. It also will intensify speculation on whether this season will be the last we see Sanchez calling the Emirates Stadium home.