Friday 30 September 2016

'I'll be at Arsenal next season' insists defiant Wenger

Jonathan Wilson and Luke Edwards

Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30

Arsene Wenger has always retained the support of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and is determined to stay for at least one more season. Photo: Getty
Arsene Wenger has always retained the support of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and is determined to stay for at least one more season. Photo: Getty

Arsene Wenger has attempted to end any doubt about his short-term future by guaranteeing that he will still lead Arsenal into the final year of his contract.

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A dreadful sequence of results in February and March had prompted unrest at the Emirates and a growing section of supporters to call for change even before Wenger's deal expires at the end of next season.

Wenger, though, has always retained the support of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and is determined to stay for at least one more season. His longer-term future will be reviewed next year but, should Arsenal not maintain a Premier League title challenge this season or next, it appears unlikely that Wenger would want to go on.

Asked if he would be Arsenal manager next season, Wenger said: "I have no doubt because I am committed. When I do something, I do it 100 per cent. I believe in life you should focus on what you're appointed for and I'm appointed to perform and do the best for my club. That's all I focus on."

Arsenal are third in the Premier League but a sequence of only one win in eight left them 11 points behind leaders Leicester City and out of the Champions League and FA Cup. They do, however, still have a game in hand and Wenger remains certain that, with eight league games remaining, it is still feasible to mount a comeback.

He was especially hurt, then, that some supporters turned at a moment in the season when they were still in contention. "I think that the criticism during the season is not very welcome when you fight for the championship, especially after the game against Tottenham where we were a bit unlucky," he said. "You have to live with that."

At the other end of the table, Sam Allardyce will stay on as Sunderland manager even if they are relegated, despite fears that he would quit. Allardyce enjoys an excellent relationship with Sunderland owner Ellis Short and, as long as he receives reassurances about the extent of the cost cutting if the club fail to avoid the drop, he is willing to carry on.

Although Allardyce still believes Sunderland can avoid relegation, he has plans in place should they fail and has an idea of the players who will want to remain and those who will ask to leave. Sunderland are two points from safety, but have a game in hand over fourth-from-bottom Norwich City, who they play in a fortnight.

Sunderland's "prepared-for-the-worst" approach is in stark contrast to Newcastle, who are directly below them in the table.

Newcastle's new manager, Rafael Benitez, has a clause in the three-year contract he signed earlier this month that means he will not stay if the club drop into the second tier.

Allardyce, 61, will meet Short as soon as Sunderland know what division they will be playing in next season. It is believed that every first-team player has a relegation clause, which automatically halves their wages if they fall into the Championship. At Newcastle, only a small percentage of players have agreed similar deals.

Southampton have spoken with manager Ronald Koeman about their five-year plan ahead of contract talks aimed at securing the Dutchman's commitment beyond next year. Koeman agreed a three-year deal when he replaced Mauricio Pochettino in 2014. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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