Football

Wenger plays hardball over Oezil, Sanchez

Arsenal boss says pair won't leave in January 
unless 'something unbelievable' happens

Arsene Wenger made a clear stance on the future of unsettled Arsenal pair Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Oezil yesterday, by ruling out a January departure even as the clock ticks down on their contracts.

Unless "something unbelievable" happens, the Frenchman was adamant the club will hold on to their two biggest stars, even at the risk of them walking away from the club for free six months from now.

English Premier League
ARSENAL HUDDERSFIELD

The players are out of contract at the end of the season as both have refused to sign new deals at the Emirates.

Oezil has been linked with a move to Barcelona and Manchester United, while Sanchez almost joined Manchester City on the final day of the last summer transfer window, only for Arsenal to pull the plug when they failed to land Monaco's Thomas Lemar as his replacement.

Wenger said that he has no concerns over the commitment of the pair, with Sanchez scoring a last-gasp penalty as the Gunners won 1-0 at Burnley on Sunday to move into the English Premier League top four.

Arsenal host Huddersfield tomorrow morning (Singapore time), with Oezil likely to be missing because of the illness that ruled him out at Turf Moor.

"Yes, I rule it out," Wenger said at his pre-match press conference when asked about potential departures.

"I do not think about that every day. At the moment, as long as they are here, they have to give of their best for the team and for the club.

"In my head, they stay until the end of the season and that's a decision that was taken at the start of the season.

"Unless something unbelievable happens, I can't see why that would change.

"You always confront me with many speculations about the transfers but, for me, they stay until the end of the season."

However, Wenger could not offer Arsenal supporters assurance that either player would be tempted to sign a new deal and extend his stay beyond 2018.

"They're into the final year of their contract," he said.

"Will they stay longer? That's impossible to answer today because I don't know. They have a contract until the end of the season. I am not the only one who can decide that. They have a part to play in that as well. If it's my decision, yes (they would stay longer)."

The prospect of the Gunners losing either one or both of the players at the end of the season will not go down well with Arsenal supporters long starved of league success.

The club have not won the Premier League since the 2003/04 season.

NERVOUS WRIGHT

Arsenal legend Ian Wright was especially nervous with increasing speculation of Oezil joining Premier League rivals Man United on a free transfer after this season.

Speaking on BBC Radio, he said: "Mesut Oezil to Manchester United on a free looks a shoo-in. I'm sure Jose (Mourinho, United manager) would love to do that.

"That would frighten me to death. He is a great talent and having great players around him would lift him up as well.

"I'm sure he and his agent would not push it this far if they were going to sign (for Arsenal)."

Another Arsenal player whose contract expires at the end of the season is England midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has been restricted to just three substitute appearances in the Premier League.

Said Wenger: "He's a football man and I will always decide what is best for him. That is my first priority no matter what kind of decision I make.

"I have to consider the interests of Jack Wilshere and Arsenal Football Club together." - WIRE SERVICES

17

Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 17 goals in 18 English Premier League games against  ewly promoted clubs (13 goals, four assists).

Football