Wenger pays tribute to three 'big personalities' set to leave Arsenal

SoccerBy Sunday World
Wenger: We lose three big personalities
Wenger: We lose three big personalities

Arsene Wenger has been speaking about his future and that of some of his squad ahead of the final weekend of Premier League action.

Wenger could hand Jack Wilshere his first start of the season in Sunday's final game against Aston Villa as the midfielder looks to prove his fitness to England boss Roy Hodgson ahead of England's squad announcement for the European Championships on Monday.

Santi Cazorla could also be involved - as could Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini, with the trio set to be released by the club when the contracts end this summer.

"I believe that Mikel Arteta is the captain of the club and has been a great leader," said Wenger.

"All of these players will have to decide if they go on in their careers as a football player or a coach. Tomas Rosicky has been with us for 10 years and I think everybody loves him as well.

"Mathieu Flamini has been an extremely stronger leader on the pitch and off the pitch. We lose three big personalities."

As for Wenger, the 66-year-old's current deal at the Emirates Stadium expires at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, by which time he will have been in the hot-seat for over two decades.

There has been much talk about whether Wenger would stay after Arsenal again failed to deliver the Barclays Premier League despite sitting top of the table at the turn of the year.

A number of supporters' groups have protested about wanting change but, at the end of Sunday's 2-2 draw at Manchester City which all-but assured the Gunners of a top-three finish and confirming a 19th straight season in the Champions League, the fans were heard chanting his name.

Wenger has a history of signing new deals 12 months before they expire as he did in 2007 and 2010 - but his latest contract was completed just a month before it was due to run-down and came on the back of FA Cup final success - the club's first trophy in nine years.

The Frenchman has always said he would at least honour his current deal but on Friday he insisted reports he was close to penning a two-year extension were well wide of the mark.

"That's completely wrong," he said.

"I don't know where this information comes from. You can treat that as just an invention and no more.

"It's absolutely false. I would like the press to check this information with myself or the club before they give it out. We both would have denied it.

"I think about the next game. At my stage you want to do well. I'm committed with integrity and commitment, full commitment to the club as long as I'm under contract, but at the moment that's all."

He went on to say that how his side get on next year would play a huge part in determining whether or not he then seeks an additional deal or walks away.

Asked if next season would be decisive for whether he stays, Wenger replied: "Of course, you sum it up very well."

He added: "What I focus on is respecting my contract and then envisage what I will do afterwards.

"I can understand people are interested in that, but that is not the most important thing.

"I extended my contract in a period that was vital for the club and after that I will see where I am personally and where the club stands at the end of my contract."

Wenger also admitted a serious knee injury to Danny Welbeck could alter his approach to the summer transfer window - having been the only club in the top five European leagues not to sign an outfielder player last year.

England international Welbeck faces as long as nine months on the sideline having only just returned to action following an injury to his other knee.

"We are all devastated and very sad," he said.

"When I say I'm very sad, the whole team is thinking like that. It is surprising news. I expected him to at worse miss the Euros, and that is already bad.

"To be out for such a long time, he had just come back after a year out. You imagine as 25-year-old professional and you get news like that, we will have to support to him to cope with it.

"I have a secret hope that it will maybe be shorter than the time-scale that has been given out."

Asked if it changes his summer plans, Wenger said: "It is a good question, we have to think about that. When a player is out for nine months, you have to consider that it is a season and that makes you short on the striker front."