Saturday 16 December 2017

Arsenal directors insist call on Wenger future will be 'mutual decision'

Arsene Wenger. Photo: PA
Arsene Wenger. Photo: PA

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement yesterday to clarify Arsene Wenger's future and to stress, contrary to popular perception, that the Frenchman will not alone determine whether he remains manager next season.

Wenger and the club believe their relationship is so keenly aligned that they will ultimately decide mutually whether the two-year contract that has been provisionally drawn up is actioned.

Yet with Wenger going through the toughest period of his 21 years in England and still undecided whether he should continue, Arsenal's directors felt moved to explain their position amid accusations that they are passive players in the impasse.

There was no explicit 'vote of confidence' in their statement, but that was deemed unnecessary - and may even have seemed insulting - in the context both of their unwavering backing for Wenger since 1996 and the 67-year-old's own loyalty.

Instead, the board emphasised that the decision would come down to a joint assessment of what was best long-term for the club rather than any sentiment. Wenger stressed yesterday that he is up for the challenge and feels "very strong, very motivated, ready to give my best".

He also cited Luis Enrique at Barcelona in the context of how the mood around any football club can suddenly swing, saying: "Two weeks ago he was an idiot and everyone said, 'You have to leave,' so he said, 'okay, I go.' Today he is a hero. That sums up the job."

Wenger even revealed that he has drawn up his own mathematical formula about a manager's job.

"I made an equation because I am a mathematical fan that I will give you one day," he said, smiling. "It's not the right moment, but I am sure you will enjoy it."

Although Arsenal were willing to let Wenger extend his contract earlier in the season, there was never any great desire to get the issue resolved from either side in the context of division among fans.

The season is now hanging by just a few threads amid the Champions League humiliation against Bayern Munich and a Premier League gap to Chelsea of 16 points, but also the possibility for Wenger to win an all-time record seventh FA Cup and 21st consecutive top-four finish.

Although tentative contingency plans have begun, there is no obvious alternative candidate and the possibility of a decision not being made until the very end of the season has steadily increased.

"We are fully aware of the attention currently focused on the club and understand the debate," said chairman Sir Chips Keswick.

"We respect that fans are entitled to their different individual opinions, but we will always run this great football club with its best long-term interests at heart.

"Arsene has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time."

Wenger had said earlier that the mood of fans would shape his destiny, but that he would not be influenced by any desire to safeguard his legacy.

• Bayern Munich's Xabi Alonso has announced he will retire from playing at the end of the season.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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