Per Molesaker reveals how much Arsenal players hated Alexis Sanchez

Speaking to the Totally Football Podcast German journalist and well-respected author Rafael Honigstein revealed several secrets about the Arsenal dressing room. He spoke about Per Mertesacker’s latest interview, in which the German defender revealed the extent of his injury history and his stage-fright before matches, and told us that he has been working on Per Mertesacker’s autobiography.

Honigstein has written and spoken about “the German players” in the Arsenal locker room many times in the past. In one particularly hard-edged article, he revealed that these German players often wondered what exactly Arsene Wenger did to earn his paycheck, saying that these players thought that Wenger’s methods were outdated and that he often didn’t prepare the players well. In that same article, he said that ahead of one match Wenger drew a wolf on the board and told his players to play like wolves. They won the match and afterward the players were howling in the dressing room. That article has since been taken down and I asked Honigstein why on twitter. His response is that the Red Bull site where the article was published removes articles after a time.

Given Honigstein’s close relationship with Per Mertesacker I have to wonder if the German Giant isn’t the “mole” who revealed both the dressing room bust up a few weeks ago and the stuff before that Honigstein put in his article about the players questioning Wenger’s methods. If you remember in the “bust up” article one player started crying when he said that his kids were asking him why Arsenal sucked. Mertesacker has two children and mentioned them getting stick at school as one of his motivating factors for retirement in his interview with Der Spiegel. Obviously, this is all conjecture and I’m sure you will reject my argument on that basis which is fair enough. But until I get further information I’m saying that Mertesacker is the mole in my mind. Or at least one of the moles.

But the most explosive claim he made in the podcast was that Alexis Sanchez was lazy and hated. And this isn’t conjecture, this is a direct quote from Honigstein:

“It’s been under-reported just how badly the whole Arsenal dressing room hated Alexis Sanchez. They really felt that he was just playing up to the camera doing all these things like ‘Oh I’m trying but nobody else is! What am I doing here?

Arsenal would put up stats inside the dressing room last year after every game showing the amount of kilometres run, the passing, and Sanchez would regularly come out with the lowest mileage run of any player in the team by a big distance. The players would just go absolutely bananas at him playing to the camera and making all these moves like ‘Oh, they’re just not worthy of me! What am I doing here?”

I have to admit that I was one of the writers who fell into the Alexis trap. I saw him waving his teammates to press and thought “this guy is really unsupported by his teammates” and I saw him “tracking back” to tackle and thought “this guy really cares about the team”. But as it turns out, Alexis was just virtue signalling. Toward the end you could tell things were toxic but I persisted with my belief that the team failed Alexis and not the other way around.

I was wrong. I get things wrong sometimes.



  1. Well, if this is the case, let’s hope his toxicity poisons the United dressing room for many years to come!

    So…did he really run fewer kms than our central defenders??? I suppose our signature high-line-and-scramble tactics mean that our CBs run around a lot, probably more than most in the PL, but still, sheesh, that’s bad if true…especially because he did a whole lot of posturing to the effect of “look at me, carrying the team all by my self with my chasing, waving, and despondent poses!”

    I have felt decidedly phlegmatic about his departure, which has surprised me. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t yet lit it up at United, maybe it’s because his staying would have made no difference to our recent capitulations to City et al, maybe it’s because we bought Aubameyang, but maybe, more importantly, it’s because I felt that, in the last year especially, his attitude was detrimental to the team’s cohesion.

    Of course, we haven’t exactly been cohesive since he left, but I remain hopeful that there is a good core here, and with better guidance, one that could play with a strong, collective purpose and self belief.

    1. Really good comment, I agree with all of that. It’s bad enough that we play Wenger’s laissez-faire style but if on top of that the team is poisoned by the attitude of its best player, that’s, well, that explains a lot. Per leading from the dressing room!

      Wonder who will be captain next season? Maybe we’ll break the cycle and it’ll be someone who actually plays and/or won’t be sold the next season to Barcelona…

      1. If Wenger’s in charge, I would guess Koscielny for captain, but that’s not as straightforward a choice as it once was, say, about two years ago. His ongoing Achilles problem, and age, obviously, has affected his form and speed, and he was always a defender who relied on darting interceptions. On the other hand, it would be typical of Wenger to appoint as his main captain a player who could no longer be relied upon to play week in and week out.

        Let’s say the rumors aren’t nonsense and we have one of Low, Ancelotti, Jardim, or [gulp] Rodgers in charge next season…one wonders who they would appoint as captain.

        I have no strong opinions. I like Koscielny for the armband, Monreal also, and even (given my soft spot for him) Ramsey.

      2. If Ramsey signs on I reckon he’s in with a shout. Never one to shirk responsibility. The guy who as much as anyone can lay claim to being Mr Arsenal in this current squad. Overcame a broken leg to go on to be the player most directly responsible for ending our trophy drought. Not afraid to take a stand (Save the rhinos, refusing Piers Morgan’s hand) . And above all, a player young enough and talented enough to be a regular starter in midfield.

        I can see why it would be Koscielny or Monreal under Wenger who rewards senior players with the armband (and those guys can stake a legitimate claim) but if we’re looking for a fresh start with a regular playing captain, I think it has to be Ramsey.

    2. Cohesion takes time. Look at how good Miki has been already though… I think he’s a better fit for how we want to play football than Alexis was.

      1. Agree on fit. So, is Alexis a good fit for Mourinho’s United? Did we get the better deal out of this, not, maybe, in terms of talent, but in terms of capitalization of talent? Probably too soon to tell on both sides, but early signs suggest we did.

        1. I read a pretty informative piece by a coach on twitter – he says that because Mourinho is risk averse and won’t send players forward, Alexis’ efficiency has tanked. He’s used to playing in attacking teams, teams that camp in the opposition half but with Mourinho Alexis often has just one forward to play to. This is also why Pogba is struggling: he’s more of a Ramsey type and Mou wants him to be more of a DM.

  2. It’s kind of ironic that Wenger – the man who is credited with revolutionizing British football with new training methods and focus on nutrition – would be accused of using outdated training methods. It is proof of the dangers of complacency. All the learning he did as a nomadic manager in his early days got locked in once he got tenure at Arsenal.

    Mertesacker was a good captain. Shame that I cannot see a captain in what comes behind. Kos maybe but he’s not vocal, I think Wilshere is off, Ramsey is too undisciplined, Ozil a poor example, Cech is too close to the exit. Monreal? Maybe.

  3. Wenger is delusional, he rates players like Welbeck, Iwobi, Chambers, and Elneny. We’re going nowhere with those donkey’s.

  4. Honestly when I read that description of a player breaking down when talking about his kids watching Arsenal, my first thought was Per. But others seemed certain that this was Kos so I figured maybe it was newsworthy precisely because it seems so out of character for him to do speeches. (And his English isn’t great)

    If Per is the mole I would see that as very strange. It seems a huge betrayal of dressing room ethics. Or maybe it was a way to shake things up again? I don’t know. We’ll find out more in time.

    Kudos for accepting you were wrong about Alexis. I supported Alexis up until last season even when his performances dipped. He was tired with the constant non stop football for club and country, and he was tired from carrying the attack and needed help. He was also not the type to down tools and not try hard. I realised early into this season that I was wrong about that. He was pretending to care about winning. But really, he was being lazy. The sort of passes he gave the ball up on. It was either extreme tiredness, laziness, or sabotage. I have to think Wenger kept playing him only because that’s how he could get rid of him for moneysss..(Or kindsss) You know, more than anything, what sticks in the craw about this is that Alexis Sanchez hurt this team’s cohesion and growth. (Not absolving Wenger. He’s the manager)

    No matter. We’ve rejigged the squad. Well begun..and we’ll finish the job this summer. That’s what Mislintat and Sanhelli and Fahmy are there for, right?

  5. It’s not in Per’s interest to dish on what goes on inside the camp. One, Arsene promoted him. He’s set for a coaching career at the Gunners (who know, maybe for life) when he retires. Two, he and the Frenchman are very, very close. So I doubt very much that Per is the mole. Illuminating stuff, though. If we didn’t know it already, this confirms that the times have overtaken Arsene.

    1. Yeah, I could completely believe that Per was the one who broke down in tears, but attacking the manager, especially after just accepting a coaching role at the club, doesn’t seem like his style.

      1. It’d also make him a pretty bad practitioner of office politics.

        Company men don’t act that way. Plus, as you said, it’s not like Per at all.

  6. Doc. I just read your reply on the previous thread. Yes Ox and Chambers too. Holding wasn’t from the EPL anyway. But I was thinking about someone bought to be a starter at Arsenal from the domestic league. I can’t think of any except Arteta, and before that Francis Jeffers (maybe) and of course Sol Campbell.

    Also, I like Elneny. I think he’s the perfect squad/backup player, and if he continues his progress could well become a bit more than that. (Never going to be a star) I don’t think we should look to sell him regardless of who the manager is. Every team needs a player or two like that. Also his baiting of Alexis Sanchez was endearing.

  7. He drew a wolf?? That’s quite impressive. It’s not easy to draw a wolf. I wonder what other animals he can draw. Maybe he can draw a lion before the AC Milan game tomorrow and a tiger when we face United at OT. If we make it all the way to the Europa league finals, he should definitely draw a dragon. That is some great managerial skill right there.

    1. Ha, that has always been in the back of my mind every time I hear that story. Wolves are hard. I wonder what it looked like.

      I sometimes wonder if his wolf just looked a bit crap, like a cross-eyed dog with weird legs, and that’s why it failed to motivate the players.

      Or maybe it was the other way around – he’s a bit of an illustrator and got carried away making it look really magnificent, howling under a full moon, with its wolfy mane flowing in the wind and everything, and meanwhile the point was lost…

  8. Speaking of departed forwards, Giroud starts for Chelsea against Barca. Instead of Morata. And was first sub on in the first leg. Instead of Morata.


  9. And Chelsea scored no goals…hmm.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still love Giroud – and wish we’d kept him, but I think we are making some incremental moves in the right direction. Let’s keep Reiss Nelson, AMN (Conservative), and give Xhaka, Iwobi, and Chambers more time.

    With any luck, we can send the gaffa off with style – and start the next phase in the summer.

    1. I’m increasingly failing to see the point of Iwobi. Technically strong, neat passing but little in the way of end product. I don’t think he adds a great deal. I rarely get excited by anything he does, and I get frustrated by a lot of his decisions. I may just be missing something.

      1. He’s young, inconsistent, and low on confidence at the moment along with the rest of the team. The tools are there but he doesn’t have the experience or nous to impose himself on games yet. Will he ever? No idea, but he has a chance.

  10. Doubt Per is the crier or the mole.

    Captains: Kos if we need a caretaker captain either under the current or a new manager who wants some time to decide.

    Ramsey’s a good choice, especially if selection further grounds him in his non-goal scoring duties. Miki if he sacrifices, keeps his work rate up, and takes on the Santi role. Still, probably just hadn’t been around longe enough.

    Oh, and Alexis and Mou, a marriage made in heaven — not! One is a control freak; the other unmanageable. Great bit of transfer business that. (Although we’ll miss the HFB.)

  11. I don’t understand the issue with the distance run stat. Normally a box-to-box midfielder or wing-back would register the highest number as they cover a larger area of the pitch. And you’d expect a CB or no. 9 to cover the least distance. Ramsey and Ozil usually cover the most distance for us.

    I can understand the player with highest distance run stats taking the piss out of everyone else. I can understand a couple of players using their stats to take the piss out of each other. But the idea that the whole team thought of Alexis as lazy doesn’t ring true to me. Over-exuberant, yes. Lazy, no chance.

    Surely everyone at Arsenal has to train and reach a similar fitness level? Some have to do extra work on agility, strength training etc, but everyone in a pro sports team has to put in work. There shouldn’t be any place to hide. Some of Alexis’ issues were definitely motivational and down to playing too much football.

    I do remember a game where Giroud and Alexis started and at the end Giroud had covered more distance even though Alexis did more during the game. So I might be wrong. It’s also possible that a player who jogs around but isn’t quite pressing will cover more distance than a player who seems to press and has more sprints in possession of the ball.

    There were a fews stories about Thierry being a bit of a bastard in the dressing room and of course Messi’s bullying is legendary. Far from it being something that automatically “poisons the dressing room”, I think a team full of strong characters just handles it and comes out even stronger. Our guys definitely don’t have that.

    1. I see your point somewhat. On the distance run, I don’t have proof of this but my guess would be the highest distances are covered by the wide players because they constantly have to track up and down the pitch, however I’ve seen all sort of players be top of their team from striker to DM. Sanchez, especially if he was as industrious as he wanted us to think, should’ve been near the top every game if he really was putting in top effort every game because he was supposed to be tracking wingbacks in the defensive phase. He often wasn’t. But more damaging than the laziness, which I think everyone can forgive a top player like him from time to time if he is also scoring the goals, it was that he tried to portray himself as this paragon of industry who is left on a island by the rest of his team. That’s what really rankled, the conscious portrayal of his worth against the rest of the team. You can be a bit of a bastard and a bully but you don’t try to make yourself look good at the expense of your team. That’s a horrible line to cross in any walk of life, and by this account, Sanchez went there.

      1. If a striker registers the highest distance covered at the end of a game, there’s something wrong with that team. Often when a team passes it’s opponents to death and wins the game, the losing side will have covered the most distance in total. Like any other stat, distance covered is hard to interpret and easy to abuse.

        I don’t buy this singling out of Alexis. It stinks. A lot of it is pure projection. If it was Wilshere doing it everyone would be shouting ‘PASHUN!’.

        Walcott regularly disappeared from games for 60 minutes at a time. Giroud used to come off the bench at 70mins and immediately fall into his ambling-around-not-quite-pressing routine despite having fresh legs. Ozil’s body language is abysmal when things aren’t going our way. Look at the replay of the home game against City when they scored the first early goal. There’s a shot (or is it a photo) of Ozil and Aubameyang heads down while Koscielny is shouting and trying to gee the players up. Everyone just ignores him.

        These issues all contribute to a lack of team chemistry and our slide down the table. It didn’t start with Alexis, and it clearly hasn’t finished with him leaving.

  12. So in terms of total points accumulated since 2010 (arbitrary cutoff), Arsenal are – guess where? 4th. 28 points behind the leaders City on 614. A yawning gap.

    But when you look at average points per season, Arsenal are – drum roll – also 4th. However it’s much closer: City, Chelsea and United are (interestingly) all tied on 76 points per season (rounding everything down), with Arsenal just 3 points behind on 73.

    And Arsenal’s consistency is really astonishing. Just looking at the big six teams over that time-frame, Arsenal’s variance between their lowest and highest points total is 9 – from a low of 68 points in 2011 to a high of 79 points in 2014. We are rock solid scoring in the mid-seventies almost every season. All the others have a variance of between 20 and 30 points, apart from Chelsea who have a 43-point difference between their high of 93 last season and their low of 50 just the season before.

    It’s an interesting comparison (and again you probably already know but I only just worked out) that Arsenal actually won the utterly meaningless “Calendar Year” Premier League title twice since 2010: (in 2013 and 2015). However we also missed out on the Calendar Year CL places 4 times, including for the last two years.

    I don’t know exactly what this tells you but it’s weird that our Calendar Year League record up and down like most clubs’ league record, whereas our actual league performance is rock solid consistently mediocre (relatively speaking). Would you take a 40% chance of missing out on CL qualification if it came with a 20% chance of winning the league?

      1. Ha, I don’t mind who fixes it, our Raul, that Raul, if they made it happen they’d deserve a statue.

  13. “Toward the end you could tell things were toxic but I persisted with my belief that the team failed Alexis and not the other way around.”

    It is Wenger who has failed this team by not giving players clear directives, like whether they should press or not for example.

    If one of the players is demonstrating the willingness to act certain way over and over again while the rest of the club refuse to follow suit, then someone clearly isn’t doing their job.

    Sanchez won’t be doing any arm waving at United because Mourinho won’t stand for it.

    Proffesional players don’t have to like each other to make a successful team but when there’s this much hate towards one of the key players, then it is a failure of management to recognize the situation and do something about it.

    I’m not terribly impressed by Mertesacker spilling the beans in this manner while he’s still an active member of Arsenal roster.
    This is not what leadership material should look like but maybe it’s a sign of frustration ,the levels of which have simply become to high to bear.

  14. And since ” professional ” is clearly spelled with a single “f” perhaps someone can enlighten me as to why the double” f” option pops up upon typing the word.

    1. I am not a proffessional profferer of proffoundities. But you probably spelled it wrong once and your dictionary saved it.

      1. A proffound thanks for your explanation although I seriously doubt I would make a spelling mistake like that, ever.

        1. I once spelled surprise as suprise.. and it was a while before I realised that it was automatically changing it to the wrong spelling. Imagine my suprise at the error I’d made.

  15. I love that wolf story actually. It’s paired with an accusation of outdated methods, but that may have been a separate concern. This is just a great anecdote and evidently, this oddball technique worked.

    Pre-match team talks being some tactical discussion of x’s and o’s? I think that may usually be the case, but probably only related to minor things. But sometimes it isn’t the tactical instructions that are the problem. Players need to be reached in a different way. Whether that’s breaking teacups or drawing wolves. The humour and ridiculousness of it all might even be the point. Like Phil Jackson getting himself thrown out of the game sometimes. It’s ridiculous but it worked.

    Imagine you are a player sitting in the dressing room worried about the game and wondering what the boss is going to say, and he starts drawing a complex tactical plan on the chalkboard and you’re thinking back over all you did in training. I don’t remember this, you may wonder. A little fearful, a little curious. How would this new play affect this game? And suddenly you realise this is no tactic drawn up, just a wolf. You feel relieved, the tension is gone, and you realise that you can go out there with your pack, and just play with passion. Simple enough. I can do that, you say, and go on to win the match.

  16. I like the ” wolf” story too, mainly because as an avid watcher of nature channels I can appreciate the caning strategy wolfs employ in going about their business of survival.

    But I do wonder whether some other times Arsene might’ve drawn different animals on the board to get his massage across, like chicken, sloth, or perhaps a field mouse.

  17. Tom and Shard, thanks for making my morning thus far, that was high entertainment 😀

  18. If it was Per who spilled the beans before the season has ended, and he is off to greener pastures inside of Arsenal, than I have lost much respect for him-especially if his retirement was hastened due to his children getting some crap at schools as someone mentioned.
    For gods sake man, toughen up.
    Some modern players act like they are of emotional age of 12 and this might be possibly true due to many factors.

  19. Don’t buy it. Alexis carried that team’s offense for long periods. But of course a bunch of 2nd-rate mediocrities are going to try and cobble together a narrative of why they were in the right and he was in the wrong. Good job everyone has started playing better since he left isn’t it?

    1. It doesn’t pass the smell test does it?

      Nowhere was the gulf in class between Alexis and his team-mates more than visible than in the Champions League. 80% of our goals he either scored or assisted in that competition. They didn’t have to like the guy. But at least try and match his contributions!

  20. Tom, pretty relieved to see someone else saying this. Total failure of management.

    Alexis arrived at Arsenal after working with Guardiola and would press immediately when we lost the ball. Next to him would be Walcott and Giroud ambling around aimlessly. If anyone was “virtue signaling” on the pitch it was those two. Wenger either coached Alexis’ instinct to press out of him, or Alexis saw the way our forwards applied themselves and adjusted his own work-rate accordingly. Either way, total management failure.

    Ultimately if a player isn’t doing what the manager wants him to do, you bench him or “rest” him. Alexis was never benched or rested. Ever. And David Pornstein himself said rumours that Alexis was troublesome in the dressing room were unfounded.

    I think Arsenal are a club with too many captains and not enough leaders. Walcott captain for a game, makes an ill-judged comment in the post-match interview, and gets banished. Total management failure.

    If Alexis was the problem our form would have improved when he left. In reality, we only won 4 out of the first 12 games since his departure. What does that say about the rest of the players in that dressing room?

    Alexis went from Chile to Italy, to Spain’s biggest club, then to London, and we’re expected to believe a dressing room full of guys who’ve played in one or two leagues at the most thought the guy with the most goals and assists was the lazy one. Absolute nonsense.

    1. I don’t know whether these rumours are true, but the fact that Alexis didn’t get the usual farewells on social media from Arsenal players suggests he wasn’t well liked.

      Results don’t just pick up because you can’t turn form around with a flick of a switch. And Alexis was obviously not the only issue with the team.

      1. I don’t care what players say to each other on social media. How did this kind of trite analysis become so routine?

        It’s just as likely that goodbyes were said in person and our guys were reluctant to publicly wish their best player well on his way to joining their hated rivals.

        Elneny, voice of the dressing room. The guy can’t even crack our starting XI.

        1. Giroud went to Chelsea and got rave reviews and wishes from all. As did Theo. I think only Mustafi wished Alexis well. I’m not on twotter by the way, but I think such a difference is noteworthy. It’s not ‘trite’.

          So your contention is that the other professionals in the team are nobodies and so unprofessional and they make up lies because this one guy was more professional than them and making them look bad? Sorry, but if I had to pick one of those theories, I’d think the one where Alexis was virtue signalling as Tim put it, is more plausible.

          1. I agree shard, far more likely that 20 individuals are right about 1 than 1 individual being right about 20.

          2. My larger point is that if Alexis was able to “virtue signal” his way to the most goals+assists in the squad, goals in big games against every single one of our top six rivals, and massive semi-final and cup final goals that helped save Arsene Wenger’s job, then I guess logically you have to come up with a more derogatory term for guys who didn’t match those contributions.

            I mean is your contention that Pornstein is a liar now? Okay.

            Over the last few seasons excessive individual criticism of players that absolves Arsene Wenger has become a sucker’s game. He’s amassed great power and control at the club, and brought 80% of these guys in. Why bring this guy in from Barcelona if you couldn’t manage him? And why beg him to stay if he was such drag on the dressing on the room? Team game, team blame.

          3. It’s 20 players now? And does this now mean you believe all the derogatory stuff about Wenger that comes out of the dressing room too? You can’t just cherry-pick your rumours.

            Anyway, Doc agrees with Shard. I rest my case.

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