Arsene Wenger has conceded defeat in his attempt to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco but refused to rule out the departure of centre-back Shkodran Mustafi over the next week.
Arsenal have had three bids rejected by Monaco for Lemar but the main focus now for Wenger relates to players who might leave and, having already sold one centre-back in Gabriel, he was noticeably vague on the subject of Mustafi amid interest from Inter Milan.
Asked if he expects to sell Mustafi, Wenger said: “It’s difficult for me to speak about any individual cases because we are now in the final seven days of the transfer market. It’s always very difficult to predict what will happen there. You have to make quick and sharp decisions, and you cannot plan that and come out in the press conference with how you will respond to any solicitation.”
He was more definitive, though, on Lemar. “It’s dead because Monaco has closed the door,” added Wenger. “They’ve already lost Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Bakayoko, so Monaco is at a stage where they have closed the door.” As well as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere now into the final year of their contracts.
Further talks with Oxlade-Chamberlain will be held today but Chelsea are preparing their own bid. Wenger will tell Oxlade-Chamberlain that he wants him to be one of the main players around which he constructs his Arsenal team. “I want him to stay and be one of the big players of the future of this club,” said Wenger. “He is one of the players this team has to be built around in the future. Personally I want him to commit to the club and to be one of the carriers of the values of our team.
“I think we invested a lot of time, confidence and money on players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who we bought at a young age. For me, they have a responsibility for the future of this club because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be one of the big English players in the coming years. I, personally, am highly determined to keep him here at the club and I hope he will commit.”
Wenger would also not say whether Chelsea have yet made a formal bid for the 24-year-old England international. “I know every bid we have of course but the best for us is to focus on Sunday,” he said. “I want to keep my best players. I only have one target: to keep everybody on board.”
Wenger was also sympathetic to the circumstances that surrounded Jack Wilshere’s dismissal for the Under-23 team on Monday night, but says that it is now for his midfielder to prove that he is physically able to play regularly.
“At my stage and with my experience in football, I can understand a lot – especially what happened to him,” said Wenger. “Ideally he should not have responded at all but when you have gone through what he has gone through, with bad tackles, it was a human reaction. At the moment he is working very hard to come back after his fracture so overall another setback would be terrible and it was a bad tackle.
“You know how much I love Jack and his talent, I started him at the age of 17 but today in the football world you need to be a consistent presence and what is at stake for Jack is not his quality, his talent or his determination, it is whether he is a consistent presence at the top. I hope he can manage to do that and after that nobody questions his quality.”
Wenger is also still open to new signings but expects more players to leave than arrive before next Thursday.
“I’m happy with the strength of the squad,” he said. “I have said many times that we have too many players in our squad, and some of them have no chance to compete for places because we have too many. Too much competition for places is no good as well because the players have no chance of playing.
“On the other hand, one of the values of this club is to give a chance to young players who deserve it. If you have too many players of confirmed status, you’re in a difficult position to give a chance to young players. We have the luck of having three or four players who are top quality and deserve a chance.
“It depends how many players will go to see if we can bring one more in. We are on alert in the last seven days. Everybody gets agitated and phones ring more often than before. Sometimes you have to share the work in the final day because you have some cases going out and some coming in. The last two days are always very hectic.”