There was some interesting statements from Arsene Wenger in today’s Arsenal v Stoke City pre-match press conference, and the one that most of the media took up on was what Le prof said about the ongoing contract discussions with our two star players, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
There has been much speculation, especially about Alexis, in the media with rumours that Chelsea and apparently some rich Chinese club are willing to offer outlandish wages to induce him to refuse a new contract at the Emirates, so it was little surprise that Wenger was asked about these two stars. This is what he was reported as saying on Arsenal.com: “They have been hugely important. You can talk a lot in the press conference but the most important thing is what the players do on the pitch. The commitment of Alexis and Ozil is absolutely totally for the team’s benefit and I’m very pleased with that.
“We are professional football people and people forget many times that the first quality of a professional guy is to give absolutely 100 per cent as long as he is somewhere, and not to project yourself on two years. It’s here and now, that’s what it means to be professional – here and now I’m fully committed to the cause and that’s what it’s about.”
So what did Le Prof have to say about their ‘long-term’ futures? “It depends what you call the long term.” he said. “Eighteen months [left on their contracts] is quite long in football.”
“They have 18 months left on their contracts and they are completely committed to doing well as long as they are here. Beyond that, we’ll try to extend their contracts but I cannot make that the subject in every press conference because it’s a normal part of every renewal when you renegotiate. The less you talk about it, the better it is.
But of course the media don’t stop asking the questions, so they duly asked him if disliked discussing contracts with his players. “No.” he replied. “It has always been a part of my job and it has always been difficult. But the problem is when the players have a big name, it’s a repetition of always the same things because you are always asked exactly the same things. But that doesn’t improve the speed of the negotiations. It doesn’t improve the speed of decision making. You have to respect the process in every single negotiation. Sometimes it goes very quick, sometimes it’s slow. The only handicap when it’s slow is that you get that served in every press conference.”
He was then pressed as to whether the longer the contract talks went on, did it create any uncertainty in the Gunners dressing room. He replied: “No, because we are all professionals. Eighteen months is a long time in the game and I don’t believe that that is any problem.”
So that is twice that Wenger mentioned the figure of 18 months, but that would imply that he is willing to cntinue trying to extend their contracts in the final year of their current deal. But is that feasible? Surely the two of them would both have to agree an extension before the start of next season? Would Arsenal really let them both run down their contracts rather than sell them to finance the price of their replacements?
I know Arsenal are now financially stable, but I certainly can’t see Stan Kroenke agreeing to stump up for their replacements without recouping a great deal of the cost from selling on their contracts. Do you?