Sunday 25 February 2018

Arsene Wenger jokes that he needs 'a good bank' to match Mesut Ozil's contract demands

Mesut Ozil scored in Arsenal's 3-2 win over Swansea on Saturday. Getty
Mesut Ozil scored in Arsenal's 3-2 win over Swansea on Saturday. Getty

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsenal are playing their best football in years, but the future of their most important player, Mesut Ozil, remains uncertain. Ozil is in the penultimate year of his Arsenal contract and is negotiating hard with the club over a new deal.

Ozil wants a big improvement on his current wages of £140,000 per week and the two camps are currently a very long way apart on terms. While Ozil is happy at Arsenal and would like to stay, Arsène Wenger knows that he will have to pay far more than he has ever paid a player before to keep the Germany international at the Emirates.

Wenger discussed Ozil’s contract situation with more frankness than ever before on Saturday evening, after Ozil scored a brilliant volley in Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Swansea City. “I don’t think he needs convincing, he wants to stay here,” said Wenger, before a telling throwaway comment. “If you have a good bank, call me.”

Wenger would not go into details about the differences between the camps. “We keep that discreet,” he said, “at due time we will come out with that.” But when Wenger had the opportunity to say that he was confident Ozil would sign, he demurred. And he was reluctant to underline how important keeping Ozil was, unless he strengthened the player’s camp in negotiations.

“Tonight it’s not my main worry,” Wenger said. “We want to keep our best players, of course. The more I say that, the more he is in a stronger position.”

Wenger did say, for what it is worth, that money was not the thing holding Ozil back from committing his future to Arsenal. This is Ozil’s fourth season at Arsenal and he has not yet been part of a genuine title challenge. Wenger said that a strong push for this year’s title would help to convince Ozil that he is in the right place.

“It’s not just money,” Wenger said. “Arsenal can win titles of course. But that’s what we have to show. We are in a league where Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea  everybody fights and you cannot guarantee that to anybody.”

The reality, though, is that Arsenal are in fact looking like putting together their best title challenge since 2013-14, if not 2010-11 or even 2007-08. They are second, behind Manchester City only on goal difference. They are playing brilliantly and should have beaten Swansea by a distance before allowing them back into the game.

Wenger said that if he had one criticism of this Arsenal team, it was their complacency. Arsenal started to show-boat at 3-1 up and nearly ended up drawing the game. Wenger said that they must keep focussing through the whole game, and never take their foot off the pedal.

“We are all conscious that we still have some things to improve in our game, we have to go a step higher up to go to the next level,” Wenger said. “We need to keep our rigorous attitude. We are a footballing side and you see that. We are 2-0 up, and suddenly the footballing takes over from the rigorous attitude. We must always do what the game demands. Today, maybe we were a bit too easy at 2-0. In the Premier League we have to be conscious in every single game. There were not too many flicks, but you should not see any.”

But Arsenal did manage to see out the win, pointing to a new solidity about their team next year. Theo Walcott, who scored twice in the first half, said it was the type of game they would have lost last year.

“The Burney match was a game we had to grind out,” Walcott said, “and this game, when we went down to 10 men, we tend to lose to be honest. There are some things that are slowly getting better. There have been some good additions coming in.”

Walcott scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season, revelling in his inside-right role. “I am happy with the goals, with the general play and defensive play, as well as the forward part of my game,” Walcott said. “It’s the biggest step forward I have taken this season. It’s the biggest piece of energy which I’ve never had before.”

Independent News Service

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