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Forget Alexis ‘bust-up’ - is it Wenger's contract silence that's causing chaos at Arsenal?

Goal.com logo Goal.com 06-03-2017

“Short-term happiness is easier to get than long-term happiness”, said Arsene Wenger when talking about Alexis Sanchez's emotional state and whether he wants to stay at the club.

Reports of a training ground bust-up between the Chilean and his team-mates were unsurprisingly denied by Wenger, who admitted that Sanchez is a committed player who sometimes has excessive behaviours. The Arsenal boss also described reports of the 28-year-old walking out of training as ‘completely false’.

Whether true or not, and it’s worth noting Alexis’ Instagram post shortly after the end of the press conference which had a cryptic message about fighting for those behind him, there can be no denying that the coming weeks are set to be the most turbulent in Wenger’s 20-year reign at the club.

The lack of clarity given on the Frenchman’s own future certainly isn’t helping matters. Wenger’s contract expires this summer and he has yet to give any indication as to whether he’ll be signing a new deal.

Mesut Ozil, who is a similar case to Sanchez in that he has 15 months left on his contract, has already revealed via German media that he wants clarity on the future of the manager before he commits to the club.

Wenger was a huge reason behind Ozil leaving Real Madrid for north London to become one of the club's best-paid players. Goal understands that the player is happy in London and there are positive signs regarding a new deal.

Indeed, contract talks have reached an impasse for both players and it appears that resolutions will be found at the end of the season instead of during it.

The most pressing concern right now is surely Wenger’s future, which is undoubtedly affecting the playing side of matters at Emirates Stadium. Per Mertesacker admitted that the mood among the squad right now is “tense” but the “team is eager to change something”.

Another inevitable Champions League last-16 exit and a Premier League challenge which has capitulated during Arsenal’s annual demise requires a lot more than changing. Even a late run to win the FA Cup and secure European qualification is unlikely to appease the Gunners faithful who are planning a protest ahead of the Bayern game demanding that a contract for Wenger is taken off the table.

The key question as to why Arsenal have imploded in such a similar manner to previous years was almost answered by Mertesacker in a packed press room at London Colney on Monday.

“I think we showed on many occasions that we’re not ready for a fight. We haven’t competed in recent games and we need to turn that around," said Mertesacker.

How can a squad of 21 professional footballers not be ready for an away game at Anfield when they had 12 days to prepare beforehand? It’s a worrying state of affairs when your captain - who hasn’t played a minute of first-team football this season - calls out his team-mates for a lack of fight and competitiveness.

Could the lack of competitiveness be down to confusion among the players over whether the manager will still be there next season? There is a strange feeling at Arsenal right now and that is certainly not helped by a manager who is refusing to give an indication as to whether he’ll be signing a new deal.

If the reports of Alexis storming out of training are true, then Wenger can only be commended for excellent man management of a situation which could have potentially put a knife through the back of Arsenal’s season.

There is still an aforementioned FA Cup run on the horizon but a convincing performance against Lincoln City is unlikely to silence any critics who believe Wenger’s time has come to an end.

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If there is any "short-term happiness" at Arsenal right now it will need to be created in Tuesday night's Champions League match against Bayern Munich. An impressive performance could go some way to altering the current mood among the players and fans, while it would also give the manager enough breathing space going into a key run of league fixtures.

All that's required from the Arsenal squad is the "fight" that Mertesacker says has been lacking over the previous games.

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