Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arsene Wenger will put football over finance after the Arsenal boss vowed to fight to keep three of his key men at the Emirates Stadium.

The futures of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been under scrutiny in recent weeks, with the trio all entering the final year of the their respective contracts.

They are not the only players who could leave for nothing in 2018, with the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Per Mertesacker also having less than 12 months on their current deals.

But Sanchez is reportedly wanted by Manchester City, while Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to be linked with Chelsea and Liverpool.

Ozil, too, would be seen as a target for many of Europe’s top clubs as Arsenal prepare for a season of speculation over some of their most important figures.

Wenger – who settled his own future by penning a new two-year deal in May – has said for some time that he would rather Sanchez and Ozil run down their deals and walk away for nothing rather than sell them before the window closes on August 31.

He has also backed Oxlade-Chamberlain’s talents but Wenger, who had to deal with balancing the books when the Gunners moved to their new home in 2006, is now more interested in what those players can achieve on the pitch rather than on the market.

Asked if he had to take the footballing side into any equation over Sanchez’s future, the Frenchman said: “Of course. I am a football manager, I want Sanchez to stay, and that’s it.

“After that, all the financial implications, for me, is less important. But at the end of the day you have to afford it as well, you must afford it.

“I want Sanchez to stay, I want Sanchez to extend his contract. But as well you have to be capable to afford to pay him.

“Let’s not be wrong, it’s not an ideal situation on the financial side and it demands some sacrifice.

“But first of all it doesn’t mean the players who are in the final year of their contract will not extend their contract. You have still that possibility and we work on that as well.

“That (possibly allowing Sanchez to leave for free) is a consequence of what I say, yes, unfortunately.

“But we have to make a choice between efficiency on the field and financial interest and most of the time if you can find a good compromise, it’s better. But in this case, I think I prioritise the fact that he will be useful on the sporting side.”

Wenger has been adamant over his stance that these players will not be sold but admits you can never say anything with 100 per cent certainty in football.

“100 per cent never exists, because never in our job never exists. I think all the three (Ozil, Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain) will stay. I will fight for them to stay.”

Wenger was speaking ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Stoke on Saturday, where Sanchez will again miss out due to an abdominal strain, and said that there had been no headway made on tying the former Barcelona man down to a new contract.

“We have not progressed on that front,” he said. “At the moment he is a player who goes into the final year of his contract and prepares for the season. We have not made any progress on the other front.”

Asked if he was more optimistic about keeping Ozil over Sanchez, Wenger said: “I am optimistic on both.

“Look both players are happy at the club. So that, for me, after you have to meet their needs. Their needs are their desire for success and their needs are as well financial.

“I think if we can meet their needs on the pitch, there is more chance to extend their contracts.”

Wenger suggested earlier in the month that the future of midfielder Wilshere remained up in the air.

Wilshere is yet another player who has less than a year on his contract and was loaned out to Bournemouth last season as his opportunities in north London were limited.

It now appears that Wilshere, currently recovering from a fractured leg, will remain at Arsenal for the current season at least.

“I think I plan for him to be here for the whole season, after we will see,” he added. “For him it’s good that he’s back and available. I think he needs games now. He might play again on Monday night (for the under-23s) but overall, what is important for him is the natural progression to be completely fit. He is not far away now.”

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