Arsene Wenger says Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny '80% likely' to return for Arsenal at Middlesbrough

Wenger will undoubtedly be asked once more about his Arsenal future - Rex Features

 by Darren Witcoop

Arsenal are set to receive a timely double injury boost with Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny returning at Middlesbrough on Monday. 

Goalkeeper Cech (calf) and defender Koscielny (Achilles) have overcome their knocks and are poised to play at the Riverside as Arsenal look to arrest a four-game losing run on their travels. 

The woeful sequence of results has leave Arsenal facing an uphill task to to qualify the Champions League and has left fresh question marks over Arsene Wenger's future at the Emirates. 

The pair were sorely missed in Monday's 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace but Wenger said: "We have the chance to get Petr back. Koscileny is joining in today. If the tests are positive they will be in the squad for Monday."

Wenger has been keeping counsel over whether he will sign a new deal for months. 

There was no further update on the Frenchman's future with Wenger insisting he is only concentrating on the football. 

"What is happening at board level is not down to me," he said. 

"I focus on what is down to me, the performance of the team and what the fans are interested in is the performance of the team. 

Which Premier League clubs have directors of football and which do not?

"It's not been very enjoyable but bad moments after part of our job as well. You focus to prepare and make sure respond in a strong way in your next game. 

"What you want is to play with total commitment and with total belief in what we do. It's a big challenge. 

"It's how much we are divided but united, focused and motivated by the challenge we have in front of us." 

As well as doubts over Wenger's future, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have also dominated talk. 

With contract negotiations delayed into the summer, Wenger said: "We have to focus on the right things. In the summer you have a longer period for the club to negotiate and plan the future. 

"As we will do as always, we will consider our financial potential to sustain the wages for the whole squad. What is sure is what is paid per week today was 20 years ago paid per year." 

Here's what else he had to say:

9:15AM

Over and out

Wenger's done, and as expected did not say anything about his or Alexis' future. Cech and Koscielny 80% likely to return against Boro on Monday is some much-needed good news though. 

Anyway, let's all enjoy this news report from 1996 on the day Wenger was officially appointed Arsenal manager. 

9:11AM

Has Sanchez been offered 300k-a-week deal? 

“I cannot confirm we have offered that.

“Secondly, we will do as always and consider our financial potential and pay the whole squad.”

Sanchez

9:10AM

Philosphising

"Football is happiness, freedom to express yourself". 

9:08AM

Why have Arsenal fallen away so badly?

“What I have learned is what I knew already. Football is a complex team performance and when things don’t go well you are tested more on the mental front than on technical quality.”

Arsenal

9:07AM

Can Arsenal make the top four? 

"We might get there, we might not get there but the only thing is to believe we can do it."

Arsenal are seven points off fourth with eight games to play. 

9:06AM

Overmars as sporting director?

Wenger says he has heard nothing about the former Arsenal winger being brought in, and denies that Arsenal needs a restructuring. "A lot of time is spent talking about the superficial..."

9:03AM

More on the Palace loss and the aftermath

“The last few days have not been very enjoyable, as you know. Bad moments are part of our job. You focus to prepare and make sure you respond.

“We are under pressure to deliver and the best way to do that is to play with freedom and accept the risk.

“We were beaten. You have to face reality and respond. You can win, lose or draw but what we want to do is play with commitment and belief.”

Palace

9:03AM

On the future

"Nothing has changed" say Wenger about whether he will stay beyond the end of the season. He also refuses to be drawn on boardroom disputes after rumours of a split between those who want Wenger to remain, and those who want him to leave. 

9:01AM

'Unacceptable'

Wenger admits the defeat to Crystal Palace was 'unacceptable' and not good enough, but he is confident of a response. 

9:01AM

Wenger bingo!

Asked about the Crystal Palace defeat, Wenger uses one of his favourite phrases: "We had the hand-break on a little bit". 

9:00AM

Sanchez

Asked about Alexis' PFA nomination, Wenger praises the forward for his phenomenal number of goals and assists this season, and says he prefers to play out wide than up front. 

8:59AM

We're under way

Wenger begins with some quite positive team news. 

“We have the chance to get Petr Cech back and Koscielny is joining in today. If the tests are positive they will be in the squad for Monday.

“Ospina and Lucas are still out.”

8:38AM

Jeremy Wilson on Arsene Wenger's future

Here's the latest from our Deputy Football Correspondent on Wenger.

Arsenal are preparing to put off a decision about Arsene Wenger’s future until the end of the season amid mounting uncertainty over whether a planned new two-year contract remains feasible.

A sequence of seven defeats in 12 matches has left increasing numbers of supporters in open revolt at the prospect of Wenger staying on but, even after Monday’s 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, the club’s directors are not willing to write off the club’s most successful manager.

With Wenger wanting to fight on and still certain that he can inspire Arsenal from the biggest crisis of his tenure, it leaves any early announcement that he is leaving impossible. Equally, despite plans being made by chief executive Ivan Gazidis for structural changes around Wenger and the first-team, that process cannot all be completed within the coming days.

You can read the full news piece here.

Uncertainty ahead for Wenger and Arsenal Credit:  AP

 

8:27AM

Ozil: Contract talks can wait

While we wait for Arsene Wenger, who will deliver his weekly press conference in just over 30 mins' time, here's the latest on Mesut Ozil's future.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil does not want contract talks to distract the club in the crucial run-in to the end of the season and will wait until the Premier League campaign is over before discussing his future, the German midfielder has said.

Ozil's place at the club has been the subject of much speculation, with reports suggesting the 28-year-old, whose contract runs out in less than 15 months, is refusing to sign a new deal of around £250,000 per week.

Arsenal are sixth in the league, seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more.

"At this stage I'm not important, what's important is the club," Ozil told British media. "We've still got a lot to aim for this season, to try and finish in the top four.

"It would be wrong to think about anything other than the football and then we can talk again at the end of the season."

Ozil has had a difficult season in Arsenal colours Credit:  Getty Images

Manager Arsene Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and calls for Frenchman to end his 20-year reign at the club grew louder after they suffered their fifth loss in eight league games at Crystal Palace on Monday.

Ozil said Wenger was the main reason he had decided to join the club from Real Madrid in 2013.

"As players we cannot decide who manages the club." he added. I've always said he was the most important reason in me coming here."

Ozil, the club's record signing, has faced fierce criticism following several below-par displays this term, leading to questions being raised about the German's attitude.

"Maybe my style sometimes does make it look like I'm not 100 percent there," he said. "But that is my body language, that is the way I have always been. That is the way I am and I won't change that."

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