ESPN FC: Can Arsenal stay on top?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said he may have to find a replacement for defender Bacary Sagna, who is continuing to stall over signing a new contract.
Wenger said Sagna remained "fully committed" to the Gunners despite being linked with Manchester City, but the 30-year-old could leave on a free transfer when his contract expires in the summer. He could agree a deal with a foreign club now, but another Premier League club in summer.
And the manager added: "At the moment, if Sagna does not extend his contract we will have to do that [look at alternatives].
"For me, Sagna is a very important player for the group. He is fully committed and, as long as he stays here, he will be fully committed in every single game he plays."
Wenger will hope Sagna follows the example of team-mate Wojciech Szczesny by signing a new deal. Szczesny’s Arsenal future was in doubt after he was dropped by Wenger last season, but he has made an impressive return to form.
"He is maturing, but he is 24 years old and that is a very young for a goalkeeper -- but he already has a very big experience for that age," the manager said.
"I am very happy with his development and how he has progressed."
Wenger and his players take on Southampton at St Mary's on Tuesday night, and the Frenchman praised the south coast club and their highly-rated manager Mauricio Pochettino.
"Everyone who goes to Southampton knows now that they are going to get a difficult game," he added. "We need to focus at being at our best because we have to really fight to get them.
"Southampton have done a remarkable job with their academy. They have produced [Theo] Walcott, [Gareth] Bale, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, [Luke] Shaw. Along with Arsenal, they have done the best job at the youth level. They have also bought very well and have some excellent players."
Wenger said defender Thomas Vermaelen and midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta were ready to return to action after recent injury problems, but Jack Wilshere is a doubt after straining his ankle in the FA Cup tie against Coventry on Friday. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start.