Arsène Wenger contract talks on hold as manager keeps club waiting on new deal
Arsène Wenger will bide his time and keep Arsenal waiting before deciding his future.
Wenger's contract expires at the end of the season but the Premier League's longest-serving manager plans to delay negotiations until a month before the end of the season.
In 2014, when the Frenchman signed his previous three-year deal, he did not put pen to paper until Arsenal had ended a long drought and lifted the FA Cup.
Wenger will once again play the waiting game and has revealed that no decision will be made until April.
“I've always said that I will judge where I stand in the spring and make my decision then,” said Wenger. “And the club is free as well. It's not because I'm here a long time that I have any rights. We are both on the same boat.”
Asked whether the club are happy with his stance, Wenger, 67, said: “Yes. There are plenty of managers who arrived at the end of their contract. It happened to me before. I signed sometimes in March, April for longer contracts. So I don’t think it’s a problem.”
Wenger, who has led the Gunners to nine major trophies, celebrated his 20-year anniversary as the club's manager in September.
Despite back-to-back defeats seeing Arsenal slip off the pace in the Premier League title race, there are no suggestions his current £8million-a-year-agreement could be his last in north London.
“I worked everywhere I was until the last day of my contract with total commitment,” he added. “That’s why maybe I can go back everywhere I was, because people respect that.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has jumped to the defence of Mesut Özil, who came in for heavy criticism after the damaging defeats at Everton and Manchester City, when the playmaker's poor work ethic caused many to question his commitment to the cause when it most matters.
Özil was criticised for doing little to prevent Ashley Williams from scoring a late headed winner at Goodison Park, and he followed that up by walking around the middle of the pitch looking disinterested while his side were trailing on their way to the 2-1 reverse at City.
Wenger, however, has launched a staunch defence of the club's record signing, insisting Özil receives no special treatment but that his body language and languid playing style counts against him.
“I don’t give him any leeway when the team doesn’t have possession,” said Wenger. “He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well. His main strength is of course when we have the ball and he suffers more when we don’t have it. At Man City, he suffered more than others because we didn’t have enough of the ball.
“Unfortunately, if you want to have the ball, you have to win it back. He is a guy who works much harder than people think and his body language goes a bit against him sometimes.
“We had a deficit in winning the ball back in the middle of the pitch at Manchester City. When you do not win the ball back immediately, you suffer after because you have to win it back a little bit deeper. That’s certainly what people highlighted in our game.”
The statistics also suggest Özil does not deserve the attention. He sits top of Arsenal's running graphs while he has won possession in the third as often as team-mate Alexis Sanchez.
Özil would also not have been helped with ongoing speculation over his future but Wenger said: “We are a team who win the ball back high up the pitch very well, which means he and Alexis do their part of the job very well.
“To be absolutely fair, I did not hear or listen to all of the criticism we got after the game. We have to accept that, we have to live with that.
“People analyse the game and have their opinions, and I think that’s normal. We have to respond. Özil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.”
Independent News Service