Arsene Wenger insists speculation linking Mesut Ozil with a January move to rivals Manchester United will not affect the Germany international.
Ozil is out of contact at the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season and has yet to agree fresh terms despite negotiations rumbling on for some months.
The 29-year-old has not been at his best this season and missed a good chance to double Arsenal’s lead at Watford last weekend – only to see his shot saved and the Hornets go straight down the other end and equalise.
While team-mate Alexis Sanchez, who is also out of contract in 2018, was close to leaving the club in the summer there was very little reported interest in Ozil.
Now he has been linked with a move to join Manchester United and link up again with Jose Mourinho – who he played under at Real Madrid before departing for north London.
Wenger said everyone at the club has to put up with such speculation and believes it will not make a difference to the collective approach – starting at Everton on Sunday.
“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts,” he told arsenal.com.
“On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation.
The media can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent.”
Wenger made nine changes for Arsenal’s 1-0 Europa League win at Red Start Belgrade on Thursday night with the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette staying at home.
They are all in contention to be recalled against an out of form Everton at Goodison Park and Wenger insists the recent rumours regarding Ozil will not affect his plans.
“I believe that at the moment I just focus on what is the best possible team for the next game and have no pre-conceived ideas if the guy will be 100 per cent committed or not,” he added.
“That would be unfair on my side, because you don’t have any opinion about that.
“When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Arsenal lost to a last-minute goal at Everton last season and – despite Ronald Koeman’s side winning just two league games so far this season – Wenger knows they still pose a challenge to the Gunners, who are yet to win on the road in the league.
“It’s very difficult for me to assess the situation of our opponents,” he said.
“I believe Everton are a good side and it’s always very difficult at Everton. We just want to focus on ourselves and our own performance. That’s all we can do.”