Football: FA Cup final not about me, says Wenger

Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez may be playing his last game for Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea if he is fit. However, manager Arsene Wenger insists that the club want to keep the Chilean at all costs.
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez may be playing his last game for Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea if he is fit. However, manager Arsene Wenger insists that the club want to keep the Chilean at all costs.PHOTO: REUTERS

Arsenal manager says focus is on team and he will stay in football, regardless of which club

LONDON • Arsene Wenger insists that Saturday's FA Cup final is not about his future and that it instead revolves around Arsenal's drive to beat English Premier League champions Chelsea and end a troubled season on a high note.

The 67-year-old Frenchman has constantly refused to give a definitive answer on whether his current contract, which expires at the end of the season, is to be renewed.

It is the issue that has divided Arsenal supporters for months, with many vociferously calling for him to end his 21-year stint.

Wenger has also admitted that the uncertainty contributed to the club's first finish outside the top four in two decades.

Once again he declined to clarify his personal position to journalists yesterday, but did make it clear that if his weekend date at Wembley did turn out to be a farewell, it would be from Arsenal, not the game itself.

"This will not be my last match anyway because I will stay, no matter what happens, in football," he said. "Will this be my last match at Arsenal? I don't know. What I want is to win the next game.

"I love to win and what I want is to do well for my club. That's all I care about, it's not all about me."

The Cup final could also be a swansong for forward Alexis Sanchez, whose agent is known to have spoken to German champions Bayern Munich this week.

Wenger insisted it would be his decision whether Sanchez stayed.

"We have nobody at the end of their contract so that will be completely our decision," he said.

"The club has a big job to do in summer, we want to keep players like Alexis and end all the speculation about what could happen. He is under contract until 2018."

Sanchez is an injury doubt for Saturday after limping off in the final Premier League game of the season - Sunday's 3-1 victory over Everton - with a thigh problem.

"We will see if he can start," Wenger said. "He needs to go for some tests and we will see how well he comes out of that.

"But knowing the player, his character and his commitment to the club, which I don't question at all, he will do absolutely everything to be fit on Saturday."

The Arsenal defence is Wenger's main concern as Laurent Koscielny is banned and fellow centre-back Gabriel is out injured.

Gabriel hurt a knee against Everton and Wenger confirmed the defender will be out for two months.

Per Mertesacker will fill one of the gaps despite limited game time himself following injury.

Wenger was confident his players' preparations would not be disrupted by the extra security measures being implemented as a result of Monday's suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester which killed 22 people and injured 59.

"We will have our usual security," he said. "We are in the middle of it on the day of a game or before a game but usually when you are in a competition you don't realise what's happening around you. We are a little bit in our bubble, isolated."

Earlier yesterday, Chelsea cancelled their planned Premier League victory parade, after taking security advice.

The champions, who will wear black armbands when confronting Arsenal at Wembley, had intended to conduct an open-top bus parade in south-west London on Sunday.

But, with the British government having raised the terror threat level to "critical" after the attack at the Manchester Arena, they engaged in lengthy consultations with the Metropolitan Police, local councils and other authorities, and have since opted to cancel the event.

The club's Player of the Year event, a ticketed event scheduled for Sunday evening, will still take place as it is confined to a single area of Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal have also indicated they will not hold a victory parade should they emerge from the final victorious.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'FA Cup final not about me: Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe