Wenger challenged to end title drought
Arsene Wenger has been challenged to end Arsenal's agonising wait for Premier League and European glory yesterday after being entrusted with a new two-year contract as manager.
Wenger and the board finally drew a line under the most turbulent season of his 21-year reign by confirming he would remain at the Emirates until at least 2019.
Arsenal also announced Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis had conducted a review of their on- and off-field activities "to build a sustained title challenge", prompting minority shareholder Alisher Usmanov to warn the Frenchman's "legacy will be tarnished" unless he receives more support.
With club and manager having refused to bow to growing fan unrest by ending what Wenger described yesterday as a love affair, he will be under more pressure than ever to succeed where he has so often failed.
In the rarest of public comments, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke said: "Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe. It's what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won't rest until that is achieved. Arsene is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing."
Kroenke kept faith with Wenger following a season in which Arsenal won the FA Cup for a record 13th time but failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since his first full campaign in charge. It appears unthinkable the Frenchman could survive again if he fails to respond with a genuine title tilt within the next two seasons.
"We're committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season," Wenger said. "I am grateful to have the support of the board and Stan in doing everything we can to win more trophies. It's what we all want and I know it's what our fans around the world demand."
Wenger and Gazidis's review identified that changes were required both in terms of playing and non-playing staff if this was to be achieved. "First of all, we have a very heavy squad at the moment, so maybe we might lose some players," Wenger said. "We want to keep the strength we have and build on that."
Usmanov, who had a £1 billion takeover bid rejected last week, responded to yesterday's news by calling on Kroenke to give the manager more support: "Without the right support there remains a real risk that his legacy will be tarnished. If the support is not forthcoming, we stand ready to step in and do everything we can to deliver success on and off the field."
Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla's injury nightmare could last an entire year after he revealed he had undergone eight operations on his ankle.
The 32-year-old admitted he could be out until October, 12 months since he last played for Arsenal. "You feel like throwing in the towel but my desire to play football is above everything," Cazorla told Spanish radio. (© Daily Telegraph, London)