Sport Soccer

Sunday 30 April 2017

Arsene Wenger dismisses Barcelona link but remains undecided on Arsenal future

Arsene Wenger has yet to decide whether to sign a new contract at Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has yet to decide whether to sign a new contract at Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has ruled himself out of contention to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona.

The 67-year-old insists he is not looking for other jobs despite his own future being up in the air.

Wenger has said he will make a decision on whether to extend his 20-year tenure with the Gunners either this month or next, and revealed in February he will continue his managerial career even if he does not sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium.

That led to Wenger being linked to the Barcelona post when Enrique announced on Wednesday night that he would be leaving in the summer as he needs a rest.

But the Frenchman said his preference would be to remain at Arsenal rather than negotiate a move to the Catalan giants or any other potential suitor.

Asked whether he would be interested in a move to the Nou Camp, he said: "No, my preference has always been the same and will remain the same.

"Of course I am not looking for jobs in other clubs or jobs off other people. I am focused on me, getting to the next level and trying to improve and always trying to see what you can do better and reinvent yourself, and that's what I try to do. That's basically it.

"I have been here for 20 years and I had many times the opportunity to leave so I don't think I have to convince you that my preference has always been Arsenal.

"But of course I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club as well. The club is free to make the decision it wants and I will respect that."

Wenger does not believe making any statement of his own intent, similar to events at Barcelona, would be detrimental to a season.

"I believe that the players have their targets, the team targets and I don't think that can be detrimental. It can be positive as well," he added.

Wenger would not be drawn on a potential approach from the Chinese Super League after reports surfaced earlier in the week he had been offered a world-record wage for a manager to move to a club in the Far East.

"This press conference is about the game at Liverpool, not my future and what I turned down or not down," he said, when the question was put to him.

Wenger confirmed he has yet to make a decision about his future, which has come under increased scrutiny following a run of bad results.

Arsenal fell out of Premier League title contention after successive defeats to Watford and Chelsea, before being thrashed 5-1 by Bayern Munich in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

They return to league action at Liverpool on Saturday evening and Wenger should have Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny fit and available for the trip to Anfield.

"We have Aaron Ramsey back in the squad," he said.

"He's back in full training. Laurent Koscielny, who we lost at Bayern Munich, is back in full training as well."

There was worse news over midfield duo Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla - with the latter unlikely to play again before the end of the season.

"Elneny has an ankle problem that should be sorted out in three weeks. He got injured at Sutton and will not be available for Saturday's game," said Wenger.

After confirming another setback in Cazorla's recovery from an Achilles issue, Wenger said it would be difficult for the Spain international to be fit again this term.

He said: "We are now at the beginning of March, so it is very difficult to predict.

"When you think that when a player starts to train after such a long time out, you have at least six weeks to be competitive for a place in the team. If you add six weeks today, we are already at mid-April so that means it will be short for him now.

"It is very frustrating for us because at the start of the season, he was maybe the star of the team.

"Overall it is a big loss for us but I am especially sad for him, for a guy who loves football, when football is so natural, he suffers a lot not to be on the pitch."

Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil should also be in contention after coming through recent training sessions unscathed.

Press Association

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