Arsene Wenger has hope Mesut Ozil will stay, but not Alexis Sanchez
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger still thinks there's a good chance Mesut Ozil will extend his contract with Arsenal, but has admitted that Alexis Sanchez won't be signing a new deal.
Wenger sounded optimistic that a breakthrough could be imminent in contract talks with Ozil, saying he feels more confident now than in the summer that a deal could be reached with the German. Ozil, Sanchez and Jack Wilshere are all out of contract in the summer, meaning Arsenal could have faced a massive rebuilding project, though Wenger now thinks he can keep two of the three.
But having previously said he still wanted Sanchez to stay as well, the Arsenal boss seems to have given up all hope of keeping the Chile international.
"There is still an opportunity for [Ozil] to stay. That's very much open," Wenger told reporters ahead of Sunday's Premier League game at Bournemouth. "It looks like Sanchez will not extend his contract. But we want to keep Jack, and we have an opportunity maybe to keep Ozil. So the rebuild will be less deep than if all three left."
Ozil may still need convincing, though, and could be waiting to see what reinforcements are brought in by the club in this January transfer window. The World Cup winner has openly called for marquee signings in the past, and Wenger admitted that Arsenal's ability to fight for trophies could be just as important as the player's salary.
"It's both, always. These guys want to win, and they want to make money as well," Wenger said. "So they want a combination of the two, which big clubs can give them. Incidentally he won trophies with us. So he wants to fight as well for the Premiership. That's normal when you're at that level."
Arsenal have faced a lot of criticism for letting the contracts of Ozil and Sanchez run down, and could face a similar situation with a handful of players next summer. But Wenger reiterated his stance that this is the new normal because of inflated transfer fees that make it more profitable for players to run down their contracts and then ask for massive signing fees and wages from their new club instead.
"What is a player's calculation? OK, the club wants 50 million or 60 million. And because they want to replace me they have to spend 50 or 60 million. It will not happen. So I wait, and I take a chunk of that contract as a signing fee," Wenger said. "What do the agents do? The agents say to the club, I bring him to you at the end of the contract but you give me a big agent's fee.
"So that slowly is killing the transfers, and you will have more and more players going to the end of their contract because of that. If UEFA doesn't do anything about that, that's what will happen more and more. So you are in a situation where you cannot extend the contract of your players."
Wenger has often acknowledged that Arsenal can't compete with clubs like Manchester City when it comes to top wages, but the Gunners have taken steps to trim the squad in order to pay more to the players who remain. Gabriel Paulista and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both sold in the summer, Francis Coquelin left for Valencia this week, while Theo Walcott and Mathieu Debuchy could both be headed for the exit this month as well.
"In the big clubs you have a choice: you reduce the number of players and you increase the wages, trying to fight with the massive clubs," Wenger said. "Because the difference on wages between the big, big clubs -- financially I speak -- and us has become big. Massive."
Wenger also dismissed speculation that he could leave the club himself this summer if Arsenal have another disappointing season. They're currently in sixth place in the Premier League and were knocked out of the FA Cup, with some reports suggesting that Wenger's position could be up for review again this summer despite being handed a new two-year deal last May.
But the Frenchman was adamant that he's committed to seeing out his contract.
"Did I ever walk away? Never. Why should I change?" he said. "I'm always committed. I'm here for 21 years. I just do, in every single decision I make, what is right for the club. Do I stay for one year or 10 years, it's exactly the same. Is it me in charge or somebody else, you can only do what is best for the club. And that's what you try to do. That has nothing to do with my personal situation."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.