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Arsene Wenger planning for next season despite uncertainty over Arsenal future
Arsene Wenger is planning for next season as manager of Arsenal and believes uncertainty over his future should not affect his current squad or potential new recruits.
The 67-year-old could still walk away from the Emirates Stadium when his contract expires in the summer as supporters continue to protest against his reign.
Wenger, who celebrated 20 years in charge of the Gunners in October, has increasingly split the fan base in recent months, especially following a run of six defeats in nine games.
That slump included a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and two of their three wins in that time came against non-league sides Sutton and Lincoln in the FA Cup.
Wenger has never finished outside the Premier League's top four in any full season at the helm but Arsenal now sit sixth, with another protest planned ahead of Sunday's visit of Manchester City.
He revealed after the recent 3-1 loss at West Brom that he has made a decision on whether he will stay or go at the end of the season - but admits he has had to start preparations for next year as if he will remain at the club.
Asked if he was planning for next season, the Frenchman replied: "Yes, of course.
"But that again, I told you, do I stay two months or 10 years, I plan. I do my job exactly the same. Of course you can do that."
If Arsenal do finish outside the Champions League positions, there is likely to be an overhaul of their squad during the summer.
But planning ahead is crucial if a club is to avoid missing out on key targets and Wenger insists top players will be attracted by the lure of playing for Arsenal, regardless of who the manager is come the start of next term.
"Yes of course," he replied when asked if transfer targets will ask if he will be at the club.
"But we are always honest and when you speak with people you are always honest. Arsenal is a world brand today, respected all over the world.
"The Arsenal name is bigger than my name and coming to Arsenal is more important - you don't come to Arsene Wenger, you come to Arsenal.
"But we are at the moment not in a transfer mode. We analyse what we have to strengthen but we are not in contract negotiations at the moment with players."
The Gunners will be without first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech for the visit of City.
The former Czech Republic international was forced off with a calf injury during the 3-1 loss at West Brom before the international break and has not recovered in time to face City so David Ospina will deputise.
Forward Lucas Perez (thigh) has also been ruled out but both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez should start having represented their countries in the past week.
Meanwhile, Manchester City begin a season-shaping month with the first of two crucial clashes against Arsenal.
They will face the Gunners again in three weeks' time in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.
They have another tough trip to London to play leaders Chelsea next Wednesday while a rearranged derby against Manchester United and games with Hull, Southampton and Middlesbrough also take place in April.
With the title seemingly out of reach, the battle for Champions League qualification has become the main aim with the FA Cup offering the chance to add gloss to the campaign.
Arsenal will view the remainder of the season in much the same way and City boss Pep Guardiola recognises the importance of the two games between the clubs.
Guardiola said: "Yes, for both of us, for Arsenal too, these two games are important.
"After that Chelsea, Hull City, Southampton - all the games are not easy, but of course we now have important games for our target in the Premier League and one to achieve the cup final.
"Everybody knows them - good quality in the middle, good quality in the sides with Alexis (Sanchez) going inside, runs in behind with (Theo) Walcott, (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain. Good quality. Arsenal are a top team."
City have forwards Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling available after overcoming injuries suffered on international duty.