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Arsenal: Wenger on contract negotiations; Hughes tips Gunners for title; Balotelli links

The speculation about the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez refuses to go away and it is now threatening to unsettle the club ahead of a crucial part of the season. Both players are involved in protracted negotiations about extending their contracts at the club, but reports suggest that the outcome is far from certain. Arsenal have suffered before when the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie ran their contracts down at the club. Arsene Wenger has been talking about the contract talks and has stated that no one player is bigger than the club.

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“Arsenal is a big club. It is not one or two players who will make the difference. The important thing is we are in a strong financial position; that was not the case before [when the club changed stadiums].”

Although supporters will be hoping that both players remain at the club, Wenger is correct that the club is bigger than any one player. They have recovered before and are in a position to bring in high profile replacements if that is what is needed. Arsenal are an attractive club and they are now beginning to challenge in major competitions. They are headed in the right direction and there isn’t a need to panic about Sanchez and Ozil right now, especially when both could yet sign new deals.

Arsenal are facing a difficult match against an improving Stoke City side this weekend and it is a match that they must win if they are to challenge for the title. Mark Hughes has come over some early pressure and the club are now stabilised in mid-table. They have only lost once in nine league matches and will go to the Emirates Stadium with nothing to lose. The Stoke manager has been talking before the match and tipped Arsenal to win the league title.

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“At times, Arsenal have struggled with consistency, and it has cost them, but you sense this could be their year.”

The Gunners have been in the position before and have fallen away during the second half of the season. They need to deliver a consistent season and properly challenge for the league title for the first time in years. They have the players and the lack of consistency in other sides means that they have to be considered contenders at this current time. We will learn a lot about the title race over the next month and Arsenal will be desperate to finish the month in a strong position.

One slightly bizarre story doing the rounds this morning is Mario Balotelli linking himself with the Gunners. He has had two spells in England and the Mirror carry quotes from the Italian that he would consider a return to the Premier League with Arsenal as one of the clubs that he has a soft spot for.

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“The first one I think in England is Manchester City, and the second team I always like is Arsenal. That doesn’t mean I’ll go to play there. I just like them.”

It is a bit of a nothing story in all honesty as there are few big clubs that would gamble on Balotelli at this current time. He is slowly rebuilding his reputation at Nice in France and has done well so far, but there is a long way to go before he can be considered as an option for Champions League sides again. That said, he possesses a huge amount of talent and could yet still develop into a world class player. It is encouraging for Arsenal that they are still considered a major draw for players.

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