Arsenal's Arsene Wenger laughs off talk of £300k Alexis Sanchez deal
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has laughed off reports that Arsenal have offered Alexis Sanchez a new contract worth £300,000-per-week, and reiterated that negotiations with the forward and Mesut Ozil will wait until the summer.
Wenger also insisted he had "nothing" to say about his own future following Monday's 3-0 loss at Crystal Palace, which left Arsenal with a "massive" challenge to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Sanchez has been the focus of increased speculation in recent weeks as Arsenal's poor form has led to rumours that he will leave the club this season.
The Evening Standard reported on Thursday that Arsenal are prepared to offer the Chile international a bumper deal worth £300,000-a-week -- making him the best paid player in the Premier League.
But Wenger seemed to dismiss that figure as unrealistic when asked about it at a news conference on Friday.
"Let me calculate. How much is that per year? Yes, OK," Wenger said with a laugh. "First of all, I cannot confirm that we have offered that. Secondly, we will do as always ... we have to consider our financial potential to sustain the wages for the whole squad.
"What is for sure is that what is paid per week today was 20 years ago per year. Will that continue to go up? I don't know. I'm always tempted to say no but I was wrong on that front."
Ozil and Sanchez both have deals that expire after next season, with contract talks on hold until the current campaign ends.
Wenger said that decision was made to ensure it does not become a distraction.
"In the final part of the season, with eight games to go, it's difficult when you get distracted. We have to focus on the right things," he said. "In the summer, you have a longer period for the club to negotiate and plan the future."
Arsenal face Middlesbrough on Monday trying to bounce back from the dismal performance at Palace, which led to fans abusing the players both inside and outside Selhurst Park after the game.
Wenger expects to have both goalkeeper Petr Cech and centre-back Laurent Koscielny back for the game, handing Arsenal a major fitness boost.
Asked what the mood has been like at the club this week, Wenger said: "It's not been very enjoyable as you certainly know, but bad moments are part of our job as well. You focus to prepare and make sure you respond in a strong way in your next game."
The Palace defeat left Arsenal seven points outside the top four -- albeit with a game in hand on fourth-placed Manchester City.
Wenger described the challenge of securing a Champions League spot as "massive" but insisted it can still be done and called on his players to start playing with more freedom.
"We might get there, we might not get there, but the only way to get there is to believe we can do it," he said. "It's not the fear to fail, it's the desire to make it and that's the only chance we have to make it. To play with restriction and a little bit of a handbrake on doesn't help the performance.
"We are under pressure to deliver and the best way to do it is to play with freedom and accept the risk. In football, when you want to play, you have to accept the risk that things can go wrong. They have more chances to go wrong if you play with a little bit of restriction in your game."
Arsenal's struggles have increased the calls for Wenger to step down when his contract expires this summer, but the 67-year-old has refused to disclose his plans.
He also said he was not aware of any attempt to convince his former player Marc Overmars to become director of football at the club if the board decides to appoint one.
"I like Marc Overmars, but he is director of football at Ajax Amsterdam. I'm sure there are plenty of candidates to take care of Arsenal Football Club, I'm not worried about that," he said.
And he reiterated that he does not think the club's current structure needs to change.
"It's always difficult, we spend a lot of time in our society to focus on things that are superficial and not take care of the essentials," he said. "The essential in football is we have to make sure of one thing -- good players on the football pitch. That's what we have to take care of."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.