Football: Arsene Wenger promises star duo will be replaced by class acts

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has a lot on his plate at the moment from an FA charge to transfers and dealing with the expiry of contracts.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has a lot on his plate at the moment from an FA charge to transfers and dealing with the expiry of contracts.PHOTO: REUTERS

Wenger keen to sign 'top' players even if they are Ozil & Sanchez's replacements as FA charges him

LONDON • Arsene Wenger revealed yesterday that he will be on the lookout for "exceptional" players this month and vowed to replace both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil with world-class players should they end up leaving.

But he rejected speculation that Brazil defender David Luiz - ruled out of Chelsea's Premier League clash with Arsenal today - will be among his January signings.

"I don't want to think about any special names, but these reports are wrong," said the Arsenal manager, responding to reports of his interest in the 30-year-old as well as France midfielder Thomas Lemar from Monaco.

The failure to sign 22-year-old Lemar back in August led to the collapse of Sanchez's move to Manchester City on the final day of the last transfer window.

Both Sanchez and Ozil's contracts are up at the end of the season. Sanchez's commitment to the club has been questioned by fans and several team-mates did not congratulate him after he scored in the 3-2 Premier League win over Crystal Palace last Thursday.

Wenger, whose transfer dealings have been a sore point with sections of the Arsenal support, said the club will bounce back if it loses key players.

"We are open to any position for the exceptional player that can give us a plus," said the Frenchman.

"On the other hand, it depends if we manage to extend the contracts of the players who are at the end of their contracts in June.

"How we cope with that, first of all, we have not lost them yet and we will respond to that by bringing in players of top quality.

"This club has lost many, many big players and has always responded well."

Wenger will have to first deal with off-field matters after being charged by the Football Association over comments made to match officials following Sunday's 1-1 draw against West Brom.

According to the BBC, his conduct in the match officials' dressing room was allegedly abusive and that he questioned the integrity of referee Mike Dean. He has until 6pm on Friday (2am on Saturday in Singapore) to respond.

Arsenal last won the league in 2004 and have since dealt with the departures of marquee players like Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.

The Gunners are fifth in the table, six points behind Liverpool in fourth but with a game in hand.

Champions Chelsea are seven points ahead of Arsenal and Blues manager Antonio Conte insisted he will focus on trying to get a positive away result while the club board strengthens the squad in January.

"I'll give my opinion if the club ask for it for where we can strengthen. The club will then decide what's the best for the team."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Don't fret if there are exits'. Print Edition | Subscribe