Arsène Wenger fears that shattering Arsenal’s wage structure to tie down Alexis Sánchez could spark dressing room tensions.
Sánchez is reported to be demanding £384,000 a week while German international midfielder Mesut Özil is also targeting a similar pay increase to bring them in line with the game’s highest earners. Both are understood to have been offered around £250,000 a week to stay.
With no talks over new deals likely until the summer, the pair’s futures at the Emirates appear uncertain, risking an already fractious atmosphere at the club becoming even more unsettled.
Arsenal have seen the likes of Robin van Persie lured away in recent years by refusing to break the bank and change their stance on salaries, and when Wenger was asked whether paying Sánchez, 28, what he wants could destabilise the changing room, he replied: “Always. But we must accept that while modern life has changed a little bit, what we always had was a wages structure that was respected.
"Players earn so much money now that the cases have become much more individual than global. You have many different opinions there.
"Some people tell me: ‘Just give his what he wants’. But then you cannot respect anymore any wage structure and you put the club in trouble as well.
"You have to make the decision in an objective way. Always the club has to be the priority.
"I understand as well that top players is a big priority, but at the end of the day even for important players you can only pay as much as you can afford."
The growing influence of the Chinese Super League has changed the dynamics.
As Telegraph Sport revealed in February, Wenger himself even rejected an offer from China to make him the highest-paid manager in the world.
For the Frenchman, joining the revolution in the Far East was not an attractive proposition for him but the untold riches on offer has, and will continue to sway players seeking lucrative offers.
"It (China) certainly contributes to the imagination of the players," he said.
"I think every club and every player has to make decisions. Where are your priorities, where do you want to play. I think the first priority for top players is play to best with the best players and in the best league.
"So after that it is not any more today where we have to make a choice, I go to China because you earn big money.
"You make big money in England as well. So you can combine the best combination of playing at the top and big money is in England at the moment. So China for me is not a debate."
Wenger has already proven that his final decision over his future will not be based on money.
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But with supporters losing patience with the players and the Frenchman with every defeat, Wenger knows he can ill-afford another setback at Middlesbrough on Monday.
Arsenal's Champions League hopes are evaporating, having lost four successive away games, before heading to Teesside, but Wenger remains defiant in the face of criticism.
"Bad moments are part of our job as well," added Wenger. "You focus to prepare and make sure respond in a strong way in your next game."