Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to be drawn on the latest transfer speculation surrounding Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling – and insisted it would be “stupid” to allow anything to disrupt their end to the season.
Reports have emerged the 20-year-old England forward wants to leave Anfield this summer, rejecting the offer of a contract extension said to be worth around £100,000-a-week.
Sterling’s agent on Tuesday moved to distance his client from the unsettling speculation, stating there was a meeting scheduled with Liverpool later this week and “we will take proceedings from there.”
Arsenal have been touted as a possible destination for Sterling were he to move.
However, ahead of Wednesday night’s game against Sunderland, Gunners boss Wenger was keen to play down any agenda which could deflect focus from securing third place in the Barclays Premier League and the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30.
“At the moment we are not in a transfer mode. We want to finish our season well,” said Wenger.
“We have put massive effort in since the start of the season to come back into a potentially good position in the Premier League, and now we need to focus on finishing well. We have put so much effort in that it would be stupid not to finish the job well.
“The transfer period comes after the FA Cup final.”
Pressed whether Arsenal would put in a bid for Sterling once the season was over, Wenger replied: “In the summer we will bid for people, (but) at the moment we are not in transfer mode at all.
“You absolutely want me to say something that I don’t want to say.
“I don’t like to lie. If I say that I will and I don’t do it, then I have lied.”
Liverpool have always maintained they want to keep Sterling, having seen star man Luis Suarez eventually leave for Barcelona last summer after rebuffing a £40million-plus-B£1 bid from Arsenal ahead of the 2013/2014 campaign.
Wenger said: “They have the right to decide what they want but at the end of the day, in our jobs you need the agreement of the player as well.”
Manchester City midfielder James Milner is another player said to be on Wenger’s radar, with the England international set to be a free agent in the summer.
However, the Arsenal boss gave little indication he was ready to make a move for the experienced 29-year-old.
“We have a big squad at the moment and we do not need a number of players,” said Wenger.
“(Transfers) or contract talks at the moment are not in my mind at all.
“What I want is to finish well the season, and after I will make my decisions.”
Arsenal responded from last week’s disappointing home defeat to Swansea to earn a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, keeping them two points ahead of Manchester United, and they can secure third place by beating Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.
“We would like to finish first, but that is mathematically impossible so we need to finish as well as we can,” said Wenger, who will check on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny following the defender’s bout of flu.
“We have the possibility of taking six points, but it will not be enough (for second place) if Manchester City win their last game against Southampton.
“How much chance do we have? I don’t know. The only chance we have is to win our games.”
Sunderland are battling at the other end of the table, with the goalless draw against Leicester edging Dick Advocaat’s side closer to staying up.
“Sunderland are in search of a point to be safe, so I expect them to be well organized defensively and to be sound at the back, and to try to use all the counter-attacks they can, all the set-pieces they have, to score goals,” said Wenger.
“We have to put a high rhythm into this game and play with a high level of energy to win the game.”
Arsenal will again be without forward Danny Welbeck (knee) and midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring).
Both players face a race against time to be fit for the FA Cup final against Aston Villa.
“They all have to get fit very quickly now because there is not a long way to go (to the cup final),” Wenger said.
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