Saturday 24 March 2018

Arsenal weigh up candidates for new sporting director role

Wenger himself has stressed that he is ready to look at how the club can do things better. Photo: REUTERS
Wenger himself has stressed that he is ready to look at how the club can do things better. Photo: REUTERS

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal have begun exploring candidates for a potential sporting director role as part of a shake-up of the club's off-field structure.

Dick Law has liaised with manager Arsene Wenger on player negotiations and contracts since 2009 and, while he would initially work with any appointment, it is understood he is ready to step away in the longer term.

The idea would also be to create a wider football operations role, with possible responsibilities stretching to sports science, medicine, scouting and recruitment, the academy and logistics.

It all further points to Arsenal planning for the changes that will follow Wenger's eventual departure, although sources have stressed that this process is about the long-term and not specifically linked to whether the Frenchman stays beyond this summer.

There has been no particular urgency with the inquiries that have started about candidates but it is a role that remains more common in Europe, and Arsenal would look abroad as well as in England.

Should Wenger leave this year, it is likely that the process would be accelerated and a sporting director figure would come in with a new manager. Yet Wenger has also indicated that he is willing to evolve how he operates and, with Law's long-term position uncertain, there would still be logic to appointing someone to work alongside both Law and Wenger with a view to developing a broader role in future.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis is understood to be exploring options but there has long been a sense that Wenger would benefit from more senior staff around him to take away some responsibilities and also challenge existing thinking.

Wenger is just about the last of the managers whose role extends far beyond simply training the first-team but involves setting the entire culture of the club.

Arsenal still believe it makes sense to have a strong managerial figure who is the final arbiter of football-related decisions, but there will be an inevitable shift once Wenger leaves. Wenger himself has stressed that he is ready to look at how the club can do things better.

Read more: Arsene Wenger admits he will consider supporters' feelings when deciding on his future

His stance towards the prospect of extending his contract has also appeared more determined of late. He has even talked about being ready to "reinvent himself".

Yet no decision has been reached and Arsenal made a point last week of stressing that Wenger's future would be determined mutually. The final judgment may well wait now towards the end of season.

Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil insists Wenger's future will have no bearing over his own at Arsenal.

The German, who has a little over 12 months left on his deal, is yet to agree on a fresh long-term contract extension despite being offered lucrative new terms.

Ozil previously hinted that the Frenchman's plans were closely tied to his own, something he now insists is not the case.

"I have always said I'm very happy at Arsenal. Everything fits here, the club, the fans and the city. Arsene Wenger was also one of the main reasons why I joined Arsenal.

"However, I also know that in football everything moves very quickly and a lot differently to what you had planned. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that my future is dependent on the coach." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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