Sunday 25 June 2017

Wenger: I have made up my mind about my future

West Brom 3 Arsenal 1

Arsene Wenger shows the strain as Arsenal slide to defeat at West Brom. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reurters Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Arsene Wenger shows the strain as Arsenal slide to defeat at West Brom. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reurters Photo: Nick Potts/PA

Jeremy Wilson

Those supporters who commissioned planes to fly high above the Hawthorns with conflicting messages about Arsene Wenger's future do not have long to wait.

Wenger revealed that he has already decided whether he wants to remain Arsenal manager beyond the end of the season and has promised that this decision will be communicated "very soon".

West Brom's Hal Robson-Kanu celebrates scoring their second goal. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters
West Brom's Hal Robson-Kanu celebrates scoring their second goal. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

A two-year contract extension has long been drawn up and, while there have been clear indications recently that Wenger is ready to fight on into a 22nd season, the suspicion is that a nightmare run has convinced him that enough is enough.

It remains only those very few closest Wenger confidantes who know what he has decided but, from a point of indecision in January, it would be remarkable if this recent sequence of six defeats in nine games had convinced him to stay.

In losing to West Brom and taking their goals-conceded tally to 21 in seven Premier or Champions League games, there were further alarming signs that certain key Arsenal players are either shattered mentally or no longer playing for the manager.

The on-field demeanour of his team must be far more concerning than the off-field protests but, asked whether clarity on his future would end the disquiet, Wenger replied: "Don't worry, I know what I will do in my future. You will soon know." Asked how soon, Wenger replied: "Very soon."

West Brom's Chris Brunt in action against Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
West Brom's Chris Brunt in action against Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Wenger seemed almost to regret his candour. Asked if the club knew what he would do, he said: "No." Wenger was then asked whether his decision would be communicated during the fortnight before Arsenal's next match against Manchester City. "No," he said.

It all leaves enormous uncertainty but what must also be factored into this guessing game are the remarks of Wenger's assistant, Boro Primorac. He said on Friday that his friend "isn't considering leaving" and that "Arsenal's strength in the past 20 years has been Wenger".

That might be true but amid another occasion that bordered on humiliation the wider question is whether he has now become irretrievably divisive. The Frenchman also suffered the indignity of having Arsenal's fans shout, "You don't know what you're doing" in response to the second-half substitution of Alexis Sanchez.

This was despite the Chile striker being injured and playing through what Wenger said was a "bad" ankle injury. After the two aeroplane messages had cancelled each other out - "No Contract #Wenger out" followed by "In Arsene we trust #Respect" - there were more banners on the final whistle calling for Wenger's departure.

"We are in a unique bad patch that we never had in 20 years, we lose game after game at the moment and for me that is much more important than my future," said Wenger. "Finishing in the top four will be very difficult now. One day, if we don't do it, people will enjoy it again."

While Arsenal dominated possession, it was West Brom creating better chances with their counter-attacks.

James McClean forced a diving save from Petr Cech before Nacer Chadli floated the resultant corner on to the edge of the six-yard box and Craig Dawson towered above the Arsenal defence to head home.

Arsenal were level inside three minutes when Granit Xhaka expertly picked out Sanchez, who had just enough time to cut inside and smash past Ben Foster.

After the break, with Cech forced off with a calf injury, replacement David Ospina gifted West Brom their second when he came to collect Chadli's cross before fumbling his clearance into the path of a grateful Hal Robson-Kanu.

Arsenal's aerial weakness from corners was again soon punished, McClean producing another precise delivery and Dawson evaded Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with embarrassing ease.

Oxlade-Chamberlain later apologised for the whole team and acknowledged that the performance was "not acceptable".

Club legend Thierry Henry described the display as "shambolic".

Lost amid the inquest was another wonderfully organised West Brom performance. Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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