Arsène Wenger has no interest in soon-to-be vacant Barcelona job
‘I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club’
Arsène Wenger has said he would like to remain at Arsenal but his future remains undecided. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Arsène Wenger has reiterated that his preference would be to stay at Arsenal beyond the end of the season, when his current contract expires, as he reacted to the news that Luis Enrique was set to step down as the manager of Barcelona.
Wenger has been mentioned as a possible option for the Spanish club, who have started the search for a new manager after Luis Enrique’s announcement that he will leave at the end of the season. Luis Enrique, whose team are one point clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, albeit having played one game more, has said that he needs to rest.
Wenger’s future at Arsenal remains unclear, with the bottom line being that he has yet to decide whether to sign up for another cycle at the club he has managed since 1996.
He has the offer of a new two-year deal on the table and he wants to gauge the general mood around the club towards the end or at the end of the season before he decides whether to commit or otherwise. Arsenal sit fourth in the Premier League, one point ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool, who they visit in the late kick-off on Saturday.
Wenger said he was ”lucid enough” to make the right decision but he once again made it plain that he would prefer to stay at Arsenal. He has previously said that if he was to leave, he would continue as a manager at another club.
“I have been here for 20 years and I had many times the opportunity to leave, so I don’t think I have to convince you that my preference has always been Arsenal,” Wenger said. “But, of course, I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club, as well. The club is free to make the decision it wants and I will respect that.
“Would I be interested in the Barcelona job? No. My preference has always been the same and it will remain the same. I am not looking for jobs in other clubs or jobs off other people. I am focused on me, getting to the next level and trying to improve and always trying to see what you can do better and reinvent yourself – that’s what I try to do. That’s basically it.”
Wenger was asked whether he thought Enrique’s decision to announce his departure during the season would have a detrimental effect on Barcelona. “No, not really,” he replied. “I believe that the players have their targets, the team targets, and I don’t think that can be detrimental. It can be positive, as well.”
Arsenal’s last game was the FA Cup win at Sutton United on the Monday of last week and he is worried about the possibility of his team having lost “the rhythm of the competition” after such a long break. Liverpool were flat in their 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on Monday night – which was their first match in 16 days.
“For us, after a little break, it’s important to switch on quickly,” Wenger said. “We have seen that’s not easy – Liverpool showed that against Leicester. After a break, it’s important that you are ready from the start again. You lose a little bit the rhythm of the competition and for us it’s vital to start strongly at Liverpool.“
Wenger reported that Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud were available to return to the squad for the game at Anfield on Saturday and said that Mesut Özil “should be OK” after a minor illness in midweek. However, Mohamed Elneny is out for three weeks with the ankle injury that he suffered at Sutton. Wenger also discussed the latest setback to afflict Santi Cazorla, who has not played since he damaged his heel last October. Although he did not definitively rule the midfielder out for the rest of the season, he could summon little optimism.
“It’s a special problem on his calf,” Wenger said. “At the moment, the only thing I can say – because I have not seen him in training, not even in fitness work – is that he’ll be short [for the season]. It is possible [he could play before the end] and they expect once he heals from his scar, he can practice very quickly and very normally but, at the moment, that is not done.
“We are now at the beginning of March, so it is very difficult to predict. When a player starts to train after such a long time out, you have [TO ALLOW]at least six weeks to be competitive for a place in the team. If you add six weeks from today, we are already at mid-April, so that means it will be short for him now.
“It is very frustrating for us because at the start of the season, he was maybe the star of the team. Overall, it is a big loss for us but I am especially sad for him, for a guy who loves football, when football is so natural. He suffers a lot not to be on the pitch.”