Monday 25 September 2017

Bitter boardroom battle could still end Arsene Wenger's reign as Arsenal boss next Tuesday

EXCLUSIVE

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger (R) and Arsenal's German midfielder Mesut Ozil smile as Arsenal players celebrate their victory over Chelsea in the English FA Cup final
Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger (R) and Arsenal's German midfielder Mesut Ozil smile as Arsenal players celebrate their victory over Chelsea in the English FA Cup final
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Arsene Wenger's reign as Arsenal manager could still come to an end at a board meeting on Tuesday, even after he secured a record breaking seventh FA Cup win with a thrilling 2-1 win against Chelsea at Wembley, Independent.ie understands.

The debate over Wenger's future has raged for several months and now the Frenchman has admitted publicly for the first time that he may not be in control of his own destiny at Arsenal.

While Wenger is eager to remain in charge for another two years, key board members are determined to force his removal when his contract expires next week, with Independent.ie understanding the mood for change among several Arsenal board members remains strong.

Majority share holder Stan Kroenke wants Wenger to remain in place, but the Arsenal boss conceded that he did not know what would happen in the board meeting that will decide his fate in his press conference at Wembley.

When asked whether he believed he had the backing of the board he confessed: "I can't answer that," said Wenger. "We will see what will happens. You don't stay at a club for 20 years if you are not happy. Let's see."

Wenger was clutching his FA Cup winners medal as he made his comments, with the 67-year-old clearly preparing for a stormy board meeting next week.

His comments come as news leaked out to Independent.ie suggesting senior Arsenal board members have been locked in a bitter battle to remove Wenger for several months, with the club's majority shareholder Kroenke the key voice continuing to back the embattled Gunners boss.

Wenger is 'furious' with Arsenal directors for refusing to offer him their backing in recent months and creating what he described as a 'horrendous' atmosphere for his players as the Gunners missed out on a Champions League place for the first time in 20 years.

Now the depth of the internal battle that has been ongoing throughout 2017 has been revealed, ahead of the board meeting next week that will decide Wenger's fate.

While Kroenke will have the final say over Wenger's future and remains fiercely loyal to the 67-year-old Frenchman, the dissent from the the Arsenal board may yet force the longest serving manager in English football to walk away from his post.

Such is the depth of the split between Wenger and unnamed Arsenal board members that it seems unlikely that they will be able to work in unison moving forward, with Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis already being linked with a high profile role in America's Major League Soccer.

Yet Wenger appears determined to remain in place despite increasingly vocal opposition from the club's supporters and boycotts of recent games at Emirates Stadium after his failed to secure a Champions League finish for the first time in 20 years.

What is certain to be a heated and potentially explosive board meeting will now decide Wenger's fate, with the poisonous atmosphere behind the scenes at Arsenal needing to be resolved if the club are to plot a way forward.

An FA Cup victory may be the ideal way for Wenger to bow out as Arsenal manager, but it is now clear that his departure in the coming days would not be on his own terms.

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