Friday 20 October 2017

Arsene Wenger adamant that he will never work alongside a director of football at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to victory over Manchester United in their last game
Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to victory over Manchester United in their last game

Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger insists he never wants to work alongside a director of football at Arsenal.

The 67-year-old is still yet to be drawn on whether he will sign a new contract to remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of the current season.

After another season which has seen the Gunners drop out of the Premier League title race and exit the Champions League at the last-16 stage, reports continue to surface that Arsenal board members are keen to reshuffle the backroom set-up.

The likes of former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars and ex-Germany international Michael Zorc have been linked with a director of football role at the north London club, with the pair currently filling that position for Ajax and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Many Premier League clubs now have a director of football in some guise, while others rely on a transfer committee to decide on potential new recruits.

But Wenger, who has been in charge at Arsenal for over 20 years, says he does not want such a structure introduced while he is still in the job.

"I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I'm manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front, that's it," he said.

"I don't know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don't understand and I never did understand what it means."

Wenger has seen a number of Arsenal fans protest against him continuing as manager beyond this season.

The Frenchman said he would know whether he was staying or going in March or April but is still yet to make that announcement.

Asked on Tuesday if this was the day he would reveal any decision, he simply said: "No."

The second half of the campaign has been one to forget for Wenger and his side as they slipped from potential title winners to a team now fighting to finish in the top four.

But there was some relief for Wenger, who also takes Arsenal into their third FA Cup final in four seasons later this month, as he finally recorded a victory over long-term adversary Jose Mourinho on Sunday.

The 2-0 victory over Manchester United was Wenger's first league win over the Portuguese at the 13th attempt and kept the hopes of Champions League qualification alive.

"We built our success with intelligence and patience and organisation," Wenger said when asked to reflect on the game. "We took advantage of the chances we created at the right moments in the game. It gives us still a chance to go into the top four."

Former United player and assistant manager Phil Neville berated the players of both United and Arsenal for their conduct in the tunnel ahead of Sunday's clash.

Many of the players were seen hugging and sharing a joke with their opposite numbers, in stark contrast to the rivalry between the sides in recent years.

Wenger admitted his own surprise at the level of cordiality ahead of what was a big game for his side but said it is now often the way with so many different nationalities sharing the tunnel.

"I agree with you. But it doesn't look like because of that the commitment and the focus of the players has gone down," he said when asked about Neville's comments.

"I think I understand that the pundits are a bit surprised by that because 10 or 15 years ago that did not exist. But it is an overall, international thing now.

"You can watch Real Madrid against Barcelona - it's the same, because people play together, come from the same country.

"I was surprised as well I must say, but I must confess as well that it doesn't stop the players to focus and concentrate after on the game."

Next up for Arsenal is a Wednesday trip to St Mary's to face a Southampton side who inflicted a 4-0 win over the visitors in the corresponding fixture last season.

Wenger has a fitness worry over defender Laurent Koscielny who injured his calf in the United win.

But he should have Granit Xhaka available after the midfielder limped out of Sunday's game having given Arsenal the lead, while Lucas Perez is also back following a slight setback in recovering from a thigh issue.

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