Arsene Wenger planning for long-term at Arsenal despite contract uncertainty
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says he is planning for next season as if he is staying at Arsenal, and that the uncertainty around his own future won't affect the club's transfer activity.
Wenger has yet to confirm whether he intends to sign a new two-year contract to extend his 21-year reign in charge of Arsenal, but made no secret of the fact that he is still taking a long-term view when it comes to planning beyond this current campaign.
"Of course I plan for next season," Wenger said ahead of Sunday's key clash against Manchester City. "That's why I told you, do I stay for two months or 10 years, I plan for [the future]. I do my job exactly the same."
That includes identifying possible summer transfer targets, as Arsenal prepare to strengthen a squad that has proven incapable of maintaining a Premier League title challenge.
Arsenal are sixth in the table ahead of the City game, where anything but a win would be a further blow their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Wenger said on Thursday he was "clear in my mind" about what he wants to do when his current contract expires in the summer, but has repeatedly refused to announce his plans.
That uncertainty could make things more difficult when it comes to preliminary talks with transfer targets and their agents, as they don't yet know which manager they would be playing for at Arsenal next season.
But Wenger said that the club can attract top talent regardless of his own status.
"I think Arsenal is a world brand today that is respected all over the world. And the Arsenal name is bigger than my name," he said. "And coming to Arsenal is more important. You don't come to Arsene Wenger you come to Arsenal. At the moment we are not in a transfer mode, but we analyse where we have to strengthen. We are not in contact at the moment, or in negotiation, with players."
Both Wenger and his players have faced criticism after losing four of their last five league games and suffering consecutive 5-1 defeats against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
That has led to renewed question marks about the team's mentality, although Wenger said the character and spirit that he often praised during the first half of the campaign is still intact.
"I'm still convinced they've got that and it's a good moment to show it," he said. "But the self-esteem of the group is not set in stone, it's linked as well with the last result. And the confidence linked with the last result drops. But where the character comes in is the desire to fight against it and to fight together."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.