Amazingly Arsene Wenger managed to keep a straight face as he made the bold claim that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will see out their contracts ‘no matter what’ as Arsenal attempt to tie up the futures of 10 first-team players.
In the cases of Sanchez and Ozil it is a brave stance and one that could surely cause severe anxiety down the line, given they are entering the final 18 months of their contracts and losing either man, let alone both, on a free would be a massive financial hit.
But, on Thursday, the Arsenal manager refused to consider letting them go early, amid Chelsea’s interest in Sanchez and suggestions that Ozil’s wage demands may kill any hopes of a new deal.
With Sanchez understood to be on £130,000 a week and Ozil the top earner on £140,000, Arsenal will not only have to smash their wage structure to keep the two leading lights of Wenger’s team, they will likely have to offer both more than double what they currently earn.
It is a delicate situation as Wenger builds arguably his best team since the Invincibles of 2003-04 but the Frenchman is insistent, for now, that he will not be selling his best assets.
‘These players have 18 months on their contracts and, no matter what happens, they will stay for 18 months,’ said Wenger. ‘Hopefully they’ll stay for longer than that.
‘I can’t give any assurances, but they are completely committed. Beyond that we will try to extend the contracts but I cannot make a subject of that. That’s a normal part of negotiating. The less you talk about it the better it is. We will do the maximum we can for every single player.’
Lets be clear. That is not happening. If Arsenal cannot persuade Ozil and Suarez to sign new deals they will be sold to Bayern Munich and Juventus respectively this summer. They are easily worth over £100 million combined and from a business perspective, no club can let that sort of talent walk out the door for free.
When asked if Arsenal need to keep two players who are so integral to their attack, Wenger said:
‘Arsenal is a big club. It is not one or two players who will make the difference to the club.
‘The importance is that we are today in a strong financial position — that was not the case before.
‘That means as well we are in a position where we can plan our future and do what we want to do.
‘And what is important is always to take care of the values of the club and the identity of the club and not to depend too much on one or two players. The history of Arsenal is bigger than that.’
The Gunners are in a right mess in regards to players contracts. In addition to Ozil and Sanchez they have another right players whose contracts are up in the next 18 months.
Wenger confirmed on Thursday that the club will trigger a one-year extension to Santi Cazorla’s deal this summer, while talks will also start talks imminently with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That still leaves Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny and Per Mertesacker entering the final 18 months of their contracts.
It will be a busy six months in North London because if Arsenal do not get the majority of these players signed to new deals this summer, they will have to be sold.