London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger insists the Alexis Sanchez transfer saga won’t be a distraction to Arsenal this season despite the Chile forward’s refusal to sign a new contract.
Sanchez is out of contract at the end of the forthcoming season and he has shown no signs of accepting Arsenal’s offer of a lucrative new deal as he tries to engineer a transfer to a club in the Champions League.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus have all been linked with Sanchez, but Wenger appears determined to hold onto the 28-year-old for the last year of his deal in the hope he can persuade him to stay for the long-term.
Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also in the final years of their contracts, yet when Wenger was asked if he was concerned, he made it clear he expects his players to stay committed.
“When you are a player you perform until the last day of the contract. Do you really think you sit in the dressing room before a game and say ‘oh I’ve only got a year to go on my contract so I won’t play well’,” Wenger said.
“If that was true we would sign everybody for 20 years. I’m not convinced the length of the contract has any impact on the performance.
“I am amazed that you are surprised by that. It’s an ideal situation. Everybody has to perform.”
In the past, Wenger has sold the likes of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie to avoid losing them for free when their contracts expired.
This time, Wenger is stubbornly sticking to his guns over Sanchez and, against all the evidence, the Gunners boss even claimed it was a good position for player and club to have only one year left.
“In the future you will see it more and more, players going to the end of the contract. Why? Because transfers are so high even for normal players. Nobody will want to pay those fees,” he said.
“Nobody knows if Sanchez will extend his contract here. What can I do about that? One day he will go and Arsenal will go on.
“Of course I think he will stay. How many times do I have to tell you?”
– Tough start –
For the moment, Wenger has to do without Sanchez because the forward has delayed his return to training after going down with the flu.
Sanchez has yet to feature in any of Arsenal’s pre-season friendlies, including Sunday’s 2-1 defeat against Sevilla in the Emirates Cup because he was resting after Confederations Cup duty.
His lack of match action means he is a doubt to feature in next weekend’s Community Shield against Chelsea and possibly Arsenal’s Premier League opener against Leicester on August 11.
“Sanchez is not back (in the country). He comes back on Monday night,” Wenger said.
“I don’t know (if he can play in the first game of the season). We have to assess his physical state.”
One player certain to miss the Community Shield is French midfielder Francis Coquelin, who limped out of Saturday’s 5-2 thrashing of Benfica with an ankle ligament injury.
“He has a scan tomorrow (Monday). I don’t think he will be available for the weekend. It’s an ankle ligament, but it doesn’t look bad,” Wenger said.
After making a slow start to last season, Wenger is confident Arsenal will be more prepared this time despite the absence of Coquelin and Sanchez’s delayed arrival.
“I’m sure we will have done the needed work. Last season some players had a deficit in minutes played because it was after the European Championships,” he said.
“We have more players ready now. We should be ready, even though we have a tough start.”