Wenger backs Sanchez to help turn Arsenal into title contenders

Arsene Wenger has set his Arsenal side a target of 85 points to turn them back into Premier League title contenders - and has backed Alexis Sanchez to help reach that goal.

Sanchez, who has been linked with a move away from the club this summer, has less than a year remaining on his current deal at the Emirates Stadium and could walk away for free at the end of the upcoming season.

Wenger has insisted several times that Sanchez will not be sold, although links with Manchester City continue. City and any other suitors may not see him face Chelsea in the Community Shield, though, as he continues to search for sharpness after a summer of international duty and illness.

While some would consider allowing the 28-year-old Sanchez, as well as the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, to enter the final year of their contract a risk - Wenger called it an "ideal situation" as players are under more pressure to deliver.

Sanchez cut a frustrated figure at times last season with his fighting spirit taking a battering as Arsenal fell out of the Premier League top-four and were hammered 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Finishing fifth represented the lowest finish under Wenger in a full season since he took charge of the Gunners in 1996 - but he believes Sanchez will still help to add 10 more points to their tally from last year and challenge for the title.

Asked whether he was confident that Sanchez will give everything to the team if he remains at the club this summer, Wenger replied: "Of course. Why not?

"My conviction - and if you look well - it’s always in your interests, even if you have a short contract, to do well. And the kind of character he is.

"He is a winner. When he goes on the football pitch, he wants to win. He is a guy who loves football. He has advantages and disadvantages on both sides going into a situation like that.

"When you have made 75 points (last season), your target is to get 10 points more. And with 10 points more, you are in there (the title race)."

With majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and chief executive Ivan Gazidis calling for a push for "major silverware" when Wenger signed a new two-year contract after May’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea, the Frenchman knows he needs to deliver.

A return to Champions League football would be a minimum requirement but the 67-year-old does not believe winning the Europa League should warrant a place in the elite competition.

Manchester United finished 6th last year but will be playing in the Champions League after beating Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final in May - a reward Wenger has never been keen on.

"I was always against it," he said.

"Because apart from Man United, who did win the Europa League, all the years before it was always a team who was kicked out of the Champions League by having been kicked out of it before.

"You cannot go into the season and think that (you will get into the Champions League by winning the Europa League).

"I always was not in favour of that, because I think at some stage it can influence on the championship, because if a team is in April in a position where they have more chance to win the Europa League they can let some games go in the championship, and not completely focus on that, on the regularity of the competition.

"I will always play a team that has a good chance to win the next game. In the Europa League if we can afford sometimes to rest some players we will do it.

"But we have to adapt to the level of the competition and see first what kind of group we play in."

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