Arsène Wenger insisted he has no doubts about Mesut Özil’s and Alexis Sánchez’s commitment after Arsenal’s contract rebels played starring roles in the impressive 2-0 home victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium.
While Wenger admitted one derby win will not be enough to convince Özil and Sánchez to extend deals that expire at the end of the season, Arsenal’s manager was delighted with vigorous showings from his two best players. Özil created Shkodran Mustafi’s opening goal and Sánchez scored the second as the Gunners silenced talk of a shift in the balance of power in north London.
“I know them well and I know when these guys go on the pitch they want to win the game and they have shown that commitment again today,” Wenger said. “I never questioned their commitment. They can have bad games but the problem is when the player goes to the end of his contract, everyone says: ‘Of course.’ Their interest is to play anyway.”
However, Wenger is aware that Arsenal’s rivals are monitoring the situation with Özil and Sánchez closely. Manchester City tried to sign the Chilean in the summer and could revive their interest in January.
“The quality of the contract has to be good enough for them as well,” Wenger said. “I am convinced they love the club, they love the team.”
Wenger was asked if money is the sticking point for Sánchez and Özil. “No, it is part of it,” he said. “The whole thing has to be right, they have to be happy. I believe they love the club and want to stay but, as well, other top clubs offer good contracts.”
The Frenchman says he does not listen to his critics after a victory that took Arsenal to a point behind Tottenham. “We live inside our own club and focus on what is important for us,” Wenger said. “People have a perception of us and the game and we have to live with that. We can only give one answer and that is on the pitch.
“I have to live sometimes with opinions that are not right and opinions that are a bit exaggerated, but I can live with that. I am 35 years in the job so I know a little bit and can anticipate what happens.”
Mauricio Pochettino argued that “massive mistakes” from the referee, Mike Dean, turned the game against Tottenham. The visitors were aggrieved that Davinson Sánchez was penalised for the foul that led to Mustafi’s goal and felt the Arsenal defender was offside from the subsequent free-kick.
“Until we concede the goal the team was doing well,” Pochettino said. “We were better than them but in the end it is a massive mistake. In the end it is not one mistake, it was two mistakes. It wasn’t a foul and it was offside. It is so difficult to explain when you lose in this way. Some small details maybe are big details in football and change everything.”