Arsenal lynchpins Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will not be allowed to
leave the club before their contracts expire in 18 months' time, manager Arsene
Wenger said on Thursday.
British media reports this week suggested Chilean forward Sanchez and
German playmaker Ozil want new deals that will put them on a par with the
Premier League's highest earners.
But while Wenger cannot guarantee the pair will stay at Arsenal beyond
the terms of their current contracts, he vowed neither player would be sold
during the next year and a half.
"These players will stay here for at least 18 months. I cannot
repeat always the same things," Wenger told his weekly press conference at
Arsenal's London Colney training base.
"I think at some stage you have to accept that negotiations are
private and secret and we do not always have to come out every day to explain
what we do in football negotiations.
"We are professional people. We work until the last day of our
contracts with full commitment.
"These players have 18 months on their contracts and, no matter
what happens, they will stay for 18 months. Hopefully they'll stay for longer
Sanchez, 27, and Ozil, 28, have been in sparkling form of late as
Arsenal have climbed to second place in the league table and secured a place in
the Champions League last 16 as group winners.
In the past, Arsenal have cashed in on players unwilling to sign new
deals, such as when they sold former captain Robin van Persie to Manchester
United in 2012.
But Wenger suggested he would sooner let Sanchez and Ozil leave for free
in 2018 than sanction moves for them.
He was, however, unable to offer fans any guarantees the duo will sign
new contracts with the club.
WHY GO TO CHINA?
Asked what assurances he could give supporters, the Frenchman replied:
"They have 18 months left on their contract and they are completely
committed to do well as long as they are here.
"Beyond that, we'll try to extend their contracts, but I cannot
make that the subject in every press conference because it's a normal part of
every renewal when you renegotiate.
"The less you talk about it, the better it is."
Wenger played down reports former Barcelona former star Sanchez could be
tempted by a mega-money move to the Chinese Super League.
"I believe it (that there has been interest). Yes, why not?"
he said. "But why should you go to China when you're playing in England
"We live in a world where great players like Alexis and Ozil earn a
lot of money and they have the privilege of choosing where they really want to
Arsenal can go top of the table for 24 hours at least if they beat Stoke
City by two goals or more at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Right-back Hector Bellerin could feature after returning to training
following an ankle injury.
But Arsenal remain without Per Mertesacker (knee), Mathieu Debuchy
(hamstring), Santi Cazorla (ankle) and Danny Welbeck (knee).