ARSENE WENGER has heard the growing whispers.
Barely six months into his latest Arsenal contract, the rumour mill started up again.
They were saying that, this time, the Frenchman has had enough of the flak and is ready to follow Alexis Sanchez out of the Emirates door.
No, he isn’t. Indeed, as Wenger flattened suggestions he could walk away at the end of another disappointing season, he could not have been more bullish.
He may have been Arsenal boss for 21 years and counting but football’s longest-serving manager is adamant he will see out his £180,000-a-week Emirates contract, which runs until 2019.
And he is already planning for next season, despite the fact his position will be reviewed by the Arsenal board in the summer.
Wenger, 68, has been unimpressed by suggestions the club are already lining up former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti.
He insisted: “My contract clarifies my future. Did I ever walk away from a contract? Never. So why should I now?
“At the end of the day, if you give someone a contract for £20million, you have to make sure it will be paid.
“I have been here for 21 years and I am always committed to my contract. Every single decision I make is what is right for the club.”
With his team sixth in the Premier League and facing the threat of a second season without Champions League football, Wenger has been struggling to convince his players to match his commitment to Arsenal.
He is resigned to losing star striker Alexis Sanchez but is not yet ready to wave goodbye to Mesut Ozil, whose contract also expires this summer.
Wenger added: “We are still speaking with Mesut and those talks are very much alive.
“There is still an opportunity for him to stay and I am more optimistic about that than I was in the summer.
“It looks like Sanchez will not extend his contract but we want to keep Jack Wilshere and, maybe if we keep Ozil, the rebuild will be less deep than if we lose all three.”
Arsenal appointed contract negotiator Huss Fahmy last summer to avoid the threat of more key players running down their contracts.
But none of the eight players whose deals expire in 2019 have yet signed new deals and Wenger predicts all the big clubs will have to get accustomed to dealing with the lingering uncertainty.
Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy and Chuba Akpom are all in the final 18 months of their contracts.
Wenger said: “We are talking to most of them. Some will go to the end of their contract or leave before the end. But some we have started negotiations.
“With the transfer inflation we have at the moment, I believe players going to the end of their contracts will happen more and more.
“The simple reason is transfer fees are too high.
"If a player doesn’t find a massive club he will have to go to the end of his contract, even if he doesn’t want to extend his stay, because of the amount of money being asked.
“He thinks, ‘OK, the club wants £50m or £60m for me and they will have to spend the same amount to replace me’.
“But that will not happen, so he waits to the end of his contract and takes a chunk of money in a signing-on fee.
“That is now the calculation of the agents. They say to the clubs, ‘I will bring a player to you as a free agent but you must give me a big agent’s fee’.
“They are slowly killing the transfers. And you will have more and more players running down their contracts if Uefa doesn’t do anything about it.
“There is a new difficulty for clubs because the players anticipate inflation will continue and their wage demands go up accordingly.
“It is up to the clubs whether they pay those wages but you cannot spend more than your income.
“Financially, the difference in wages between ourselves and the big, big clubs has become massive.
“So we have the choice to reduce the number of players or increase the wages and try to fight with the massive clubs.”
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