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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Arsene Wenger denies Arsenal's Mesut Ozil has agreed Barcelona move

The 29-year-old Germany international out of contract at Emirates Stadium at end of season

Arsene Wenger, left, refused to sell Mesut Ozil in the summer despite knowing he could walk away for free in 2018. David Klein / Reuters
Arsene Wenger, left, refused to sell Mesut Ozil in the summer despite knowing he could walk away for free in 2018. David Klein / Reuters

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has denied reports suggesting Mesut Ozil has agreed a switch to Barcelona.

The 29-year-old midfielder is out of contract at the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season and is free to speak to foreign clubs in January over a summer move.

Ozil, who held Arsenal's club-record transfer tag until Alexandre Lacazette joined in July, has divided opinion on his influence since moving to England but the Germany international put in a man of the match display in last weekend's north London derby victory over Tottenham.

With Manchester United and Fenerbache also linked with moves for the player, Wenger is keen for both Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who finds himself in the same contractual position, to stay.

Asked if claims that Ozil had already agreed terms with Barcelona, Wenger said: "No.

"What kind of control can I have over that? All these people have agents who can talk to anybody. That doesn't disturb people, that happens all through their career."

Wenger refused to sell either Ozil or Sanchez in the summer despite knowing they could walk away for free in 2018, although that stance softened as a potential move to Manchester City for the latter almost came to fruition on deadline day.

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Although neither of Wenger's top names have signed fresh terms despite negotiations originally opening a year ago, the Frenchman believes they will be honest and is not worried about fielding the pair ahead of Sunday's trip to Burnley.

"They are honest. I don't question their honesty," he added. "Nobody knows what will happen when the players reach the end of their contracts. Our worry is to perform on Sunday, that's it.

"They want to turn up and put in good performances. I have no concerns. I am more concerned about the team performance.

"Ozil and Alexis are praised when the team is doing well because of them, and when the team doesn't do well they get more criticism. I'm more concerned that the team focuses on strong performances.

"My worry is on Sunday. After that, I will care about the second half of the season later."

Both players are expected to be recalled for Sunday's trip to Turf Moor after Wenger made 11 changes for the 1-0 Europa League defeat to Cologne in Germany on Thursday night.

Wenger pointed out that Ozil's recent resurgence is down to his improved fitness levels.

"Mesut has worked hard and he is extremely fit at the moment as well, and that is why you see him sharp," the Arsenal manager told the club’s official website. "The quality of his technical aspect is always there but he has added a more determined attitude and that is what you want from him."

Veteran French manager Wenger added: "Football today is very demanding in the mental and physical aspects and Mesut is in much better physical shape than he was before.

"Every player wants to be a star and when they don't manage to do it they are really disappointed but the best way to achieve it is to work hard and show the quality of performance that people expect from you."

Sean Dyche, manager of Burnley, . Nigel Roddis / Getty Images
Sean Dyche, manager of Burnley, . Nigel Roddis / Getty Images

Last weekend's win left Arsenal in sixth place, a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham with goal difference alone keeping the Gunners above Burnley.

Wenger has been impressed by Sean Dyche's side this season and is well aware of the test that lies ahead for his team.

"They are the surprise package because before the season if you asked 100 people if Burnley would have 22 points at this stage of the season, 90 would have said no - and the 10 others would have been Burnley supporters," he said.

"They have won games with 25 per cent or 30 per cent possession, that means they are calm, they know what to do and they are patient with that killing instinct of a snake," Wenger added. "They put you to their face and then they bite you.”

Wenger will restore his first choice line up after making wholesale changes for the midweek Europa League defeat at Cologne which did not prevent Arsenal from continuing in the competition as group winners.

Danny Welbeck will return to the bench after a 45-minute appearance against the German side but Theo Walcott is out because of illness, while Santi Cazorla remains a long-term absentee.

Burnley are boosted by the return of top goalscorer Chris Wood for their clash with Arsenal after the striker missed last week's victory over Swansea City.

Wood returned late from New Zealand international duty with a minor hamstring problem ahead of the win over the Swans, but has since got through a full week of training.

Burnley manager Dyche has no fresh injury concerns, although England goalkeeper Tom Heaton is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder.

Dean Marney (knee ligament) and Jonathan Walters (knee) have both returned to training but are not ready to be brought back into the matchday squad.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's clash, Clarets manager Dyche said: "When you come across these clubs, it's a case of how you are performing against some of the most powerful teams - not just the score, but the actual performance level.

"Playing against these big teams is a measurement of where we are in relation to them."

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