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Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan deal is swap of world-class players - Wenger

LONDON -- Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal have traded one world-class player for another in swapping Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and backed the Armenian to return to his best form at the Emirates.

The completion of the Sanchez deal was finally announced on Monday, with Mkhitaryan moving the other way after falling out of favour with Jose Mourinho at United.

It brought an end to a transfer saga that had dragged out since the summer, when the Chilean's move to Manchester City collapsed on the final day of the transfer window as Arsenal failed to bring in a replacement.

"We lose a world-class player and we gain a world-class player," Wenger said about the swap. "How efficient will that be? That will be down to the performances of both players.

"Mkhitaryan has the qualities to integrate into our game and that is based a lot on movement and technical quality. I think he has the attributes, a good team attitude as well and I'm confident that it will work. He can play in all kinds of positions -- on the flanks and he can play through the middle as well. I think he's very versatile and it should help us to be very efficient going forward."

Mkhitaryan has only started one Premier League game since Nov. 5 despite a strong start to the season, but Wenger said he is confident he can coax the best out of the attacking midfielder.

"I hope yes. I have no doubt about his attitude, his commitment, his desire to do well," Wenger said. "My challenge is to get him to express his talent completely, that we know is absolutely right because he has done extremely well, so he has a new challenge that we want to help him be successful in."

Sanchez will reportedly be the Premier League's highest-paid player at United, and Wenger said it was clear the financial aspects played a part in the Chilean's decision to make the move.

"I said here that he's 29 years old going onto 30 in 2018, and that it was maybe his last contract. Of course the financial aspect is important," Wenger said. "He could combine both. I think he's going to a great club and he gets a great contract, so you can understand that a professional player can combine both aspects."

Wenger had long expressed confidence that Sanchez would extend his contract, which was set to expire this summer. But he deflected a question about whether the Chilean had actually come close to agreeing a deal last summer.

"Look, I don't want to come back on the history of his negotiations, but maybe one day," Wenger said. "Alexis is a great guy and has always been committed, did the negotiations go well or not well? It has never affected him and I would just like to remind you I took him to the hotel on the night before the Crystal Palace game and he was completely focused and ready to play the next day until I told him, look you can go home, the deal is over the line. So, that's what he did.

"No matter how the negotiations went he was always focused on football."

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


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