Arsene Wenger admits there has been no progress in contract talks with Mesut Ozil or Jack Wilshere.
The Arsenal boss wants their futures sorted out before the transfer window opens on New Year’s Day.
But he is still no closer to knowing whether his midfield stars will leave as free agents in the summer, despite having a small army of negotiators and heads of recruitment at the Emirates.
Wenger denied reports that the club have made a new, improved offer to top earner Ozil, 29, whose current contract expires at the end of the season, and admitted that there have still been no talks with 25-year-old Wilshere.
The Frenchman said: “We are in December today, so now it is time to talk to Jack. But it has not happened yet.”
But Wenger’s most immediate concern is getting Arsenal’s top-four challenge back on track following last week’s 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United.
And he claims his team are being unfairly handicapped by the Premier League’s schedulers.
The Gunners chief is seriously unimpressed that Arsenal travel to Southampton for a midday kick-off tomorrow after playing in the Europa League on Thursday night, while United, Liverpool and Manchester City all kick off later the same day.
He complained: “The Premier League must respect the fairness of the competition and I believe that many teams don’t fight on an equal front in terms of recovery.
“I understand that we have to play all the games — but what I’d like is that the teams who have tight schedules are all faced with the same problems. That was not the case last week and it won’t be the same next week, either.
“I don’t mind if we have to play every day, as long as our opponents play every day, too.
“There is a massive difference on the recovery side between three and four days.
“Against United last week, I felt it took my players time to get into the game because we had played on the Wednesday night against Huddersfield and United had played 24 hours earlier.
“It took us a while to adjust to the pace of the game and they surprised us with their pace and power up front.
“After that first 15 minutes we played remarkably well. We had a very strong, creative performance with a high amount of expected goals. But we had a poor defensive performance.”
Wenger abandoned his customary defensive formation midway through that United defeat and he also switched to a back four for Thursday’s 6-0 Europa League thrashing of BATE Borisov.
He admitted: “The back four is my preferred system but I have to adjust to what suits the quality of the players I have available and the balance of the team.
“We analysed the United defeat with the players straightaway to allow us to get the disappointment out of our system and focus on what is in front of us.”
Arsenal are now a massive 15 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
But Wenger does not buy into the theory that Pep Guardiola has somehow reinvented the managerial wheel this season.
He said: “City won the title before Pep, so we will see what happens at the end of the season.
“At the moment it is not realistic for us to speak about the title because we are too far away. Let’s just fight to win our next game and see in the longer distance if we can come back.”