Arsene Wenger believes the spirit behind Arsenal’s FA Cup semifinal 2-1 triumph against Manchester City was epitomised by the “animal” instincts of Alexis Sanchez.
Gunners boss Wenger led his side to a record 20th FA Cup final appearance thanks to an unusually stubborn display from a team often criticised for collapsing under pressure.
Trailing to Sergio Aguero’s second half goal, Arsenal were on the verge of another dispiriting loss in a troubled season after being out-played for long periods.
But the north Londoners showed unexpected spirit as Nacho Monreal equalised to force extra-time before Chile forward Sanchez bagged the winner from close-range.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Sanchez, linked with a transfer after so far refusing to sign a new contract, had struggled to find his top form against City.
But Wenger was delighted with the way his star kept plugging away until he delivered the killer blow.
“Alexis Sanchez was like the team. He had problems to start and became stronger and stronger. He is an animal, always ready to kill the opponent. He will never give up,” Wenger said.
“He will be here next year because he has a contract and hopefully we will manage to extend him.
“In the first half maybe we were a bit cautious, accepting to be dominated, and then we became stronger and stronger.
“It was a very tight game but overall I think we deserved to win the game.
“People questioned us, we went through tough times. In these times you can be divided or united and we have shown the right response.”
Asked if he was ready to reveal whether he will sign a new contract to stay on next season, Wenger once again refused to settle the debate about his future.
“People can question my decision but not my loyalty and commitment to the club,” he said.
“We went through a difficult period. I will talk one day about that. I feel players showed great togetherness today.”
While Wenger can look forward to trying to become the first manager to win the FA Cup seven times, City boss Pep Guardiola will finish his first season in England empty-handed.
Bemoaning his side’s finishing, Guardiola claimed City deserved more from a largely dominant display.
But he is faced with having to lift his shattered players for a crucial derby against Manchester United on Thursday as the battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four hots up.
“We did absolutely everything. We competed here, we had more chances but the finishing was like it has been throughout the season,” Guardiola said.
“We played like we wanted to and that’s all. We are sad we have to stand up to finish the games we still have to play.
“I don’t have regrets about the team. We just have to compete in these games. Next season we will be stronger.”