LONDON • Arsene Wenger has instructed his Arsenal players to recover their focus and not to use the uncertainty over his future as an excuse for falling short of the required standards.
The manager continued to be bombarded with questions over his intentions yesterday, which he continued to deflect and it remains easy to see the issue as a distraction for everybody at the club.
Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and, although he said he was "very clear" about what he wanted to do, he once again refused to make it public.
He was more concerned with arresting the worst slump of his long career in the Premier League - Arsenal have lost four of their last five matches in the competition - and he knows that Sunday's visit of Manchester City is vital on many levels.
He was critical of how his players had performed in their previous game - the 1-3 loss at West Bromwich Albion before the international break - acknowledging that "there was something missing".
His message ahead of the City game was plain: The players had to show their steel.
JUST WHITE NOISE
I personally believe that both of them want to stay and I hope that the club will find an agreement with them.
ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, playing down the transfer rumours surrounding the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
"Is my situation causing instability? No," insisted Wenger, despite arriving at his press conference having made the headlines in the British media.
The Daily Mail reported that he had informed Arsenal that he intends to sign a two-year extension while The Sun reported that the 67-year-old will announce his decision on his future after Sunday's game.
"The priority in life is always to focus on what is important and not to look for excuses," added Wenger.
"At the moment, our results are not going the way we want but, as well, we have to make sure that the priority for us is what happens on the pitch."
He also addressed another well-worn theme - the futures of his star players, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
Sanchez, whose contract expires in the summer of next year, has emerged as a target for London rivals Chelsea. And, on Wednesday, the Chile forward appeared to flirt with the Premier League leaders - who are 19 points clear of Arsenal - while promising to see out his contract.
Speaking to Chilean media while on international duty, and quoted in Publimetro, Arsenal's top scorer with 22 goals this season said: "I am happy in London and hope to finish my contract there. I'd like to stay in the city but with a team that is winning things, that has a winning mentality."
Wenger did not see any cause for concern.
"There's only one team in London, so he's happy," joked the Frenchman. "I think personally he's happy here... You always have to be cautious when people give interviews in their home countries because the interpretation is not always what they wanted to say. But I don't see anything negative. He said he wants to win the championship. That's what everybody wants and I can understand that completely."
Like Sanchez, Ozil will enter the final 12 months of his contract in the summer and the club will wait until then to discuss fresh terms with both players.
"I personally believe that both of them want to stay and I hope that the club will find an agreement with them," Wenger said.
On the subject of his own future, Arsenal's manager since 1996 said: "I've always been very clear in my mind. I will remain like that. It's a subject that, at the moment, is not sorted completely out. But anyway, do I stay two months or two years? My commitment will be exactly the same."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE