Arsene Wenger made the bold claim on Sunday that it was “ideal” Arsenal had eight players out of contract in less than 12 months’ time, also hinting that Mesut Ozil would see out his current deal and leave on a free transfer next summer.
The Arsenal manager was speaking after a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament after a summer in which he has been able to offer no solid assurances about the future of Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom have just one season to run on their contracts. In addition to those two marquee names, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy will also be out of contract next summer.
In a long explanation, Wenger claimed that there would be no effect on performance and that it would create an “ideal” competitive atmosphere in which individuals would be motivated to play for their futures – at Arsenal or elsewhere.
Asked whether it was an issue that he would have six players out of contract, Wenger said. “Not an issue. I think it’s an ideal situation.” Pressed on why that was the case, he said: “Because everyone has to perform.”
Wenger intimated that he felt Ozil, yet to agree a new deal, would run down his contract and potentially leave next summer. In response to a question as to whether he was happy for Ozil to go into the last 12 months of his deal, Wenger said: “Yes, I think in the future you will see it more and more. Why? Because the transfers are so high even for normal players, you will see more and more players going into the final year of the contract because no club will want to pay the amount demanded. I’m convinced in the next ten years it will become usual.”
He later said that length of contract had no impact on a player’s performance. “When you’re a football player you perform until the last day of your contract. Whether you have two or one year left it doesn’t change. You want to play and do well. Do you really think they sit in the dressing room and think, ‘Oh, I have one year to go I will not play well today’. Where does that come from? When you are a football player you want to play well, what does that have to do with the length of your contract. It’s amazing.”
The new club record £52.7 million signing Alexandre Lacazette scored on his first start at the Emirates and Arsenal still retained the Emirates Cup despite Sevilla being the only team in the competition to win both their games. The former Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City midfielder Steven N’Zonzi scored a fine winner after Joaquin Correa had first given his side the lead.
A rule which counted goals scored among the overall points tally meant that the home team just edged the competition. Both clubs finished with a cumulative points and goals total of nine, and were tied on goal difference, but the fact that six of Arsenal’s points came from goals scored meant that, under the Emirates rules, they retained their stadium and shirt sponsor’s competition title.
Sanchez is due to fly back on Monday night to report on Tuesday for training and Wenger again said he believed the Chilean would stay. “What can I do about that [fans’ fears Sanchez will leave]? One day, he will go and Arsenal will go on. We will all go on day and Arsenal will, hopefully, go on.”
Wenger said that Gibbs has been ill over the weekend. Mohamed Elneny started at centre-back and there was a steady performance from the 17-year-old academy boy Joe Willock in a deep-lying midfield position.