Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wenger future hinges on successful season

Arsene Wenger turns 64 next month
Arsene Wenger turns 64 next month

Jeremy Wilson

Arsène Wenger’s future as Arsenal manager will hinge on the success this season of his team, with the Frenchman indicating that he expects to wait until next year before deciding whether to extend his contract.

Initial talks have been held about renewing a contract which expires next June but, although both sides are keen in principle on agreeing a new deal, Wenger clearly senses that he must still prove himself.

Wenger has never finished outside the top four in 17 years at Arsenal but has worked amid a steadily increasing backdrop of criticism from fans at the failure to win a trophy since 2005.

Paris Saint-Germain, who have appointed Laurent Blanc on a one-year contract, remain big admirers of Wenger and are expected to make another attempt to lure him back to France.

“I’ve said many times I want to do well with this club and in the end I will sit down and think how well have I done with the team I have had,” said Wenger.

“That has to be sufficient for me to decide yes or no. One of the main judgments you can have about a manager is how well he does with his team.”

Asked if any further contract talks were planned, Wenger said: “There’s no need to plan. We are in no hurry. We are in September and my contract finishes in June. There’s a long way to go.”

Arsenal backed Wenger during the transfer window with a budget in excess of £70 million and, having signed Mesut Özil for £42 million, further funds are available for major signings next year.

Wenger believes that the arrival of Özil has demonstrated that Arsenal are genuinely moving into a new era when they can compete to sign the very best players in the world.

“We had to go through some years when I signed a long-term contract where we had some restricted financial potential,” said Wenger.

“The target was to stay in the Champions League in this period and we managed to do it. We are now in a strong position financially.”

According to Wenger, his first attempt to sign Özil in the summer of 2010 helped lay the foundations for his deadline day deal this year.

“When Mesut went to Real, we were in touch,” he said. “Even then I wanted to get him to Arsenal but it didn’t work. That was the start of our relationship. Now the second time it worked. I think the first contact really helped.

“To say it was all under control is a big exaggerated because not a lot was under control. I thought we had a chance to do it, a small one, but we worked very hard on it until the end.

"I looked a bit lonely when I said I was optimistic but in the end it happened. I think it was linked with the Gareth Bale transfer. I was surprised.

“It was very complicated because the timing was short. On Sunday, when I came to the Tottenham game at 2pm, I thought we will manage to do it. I knew we were 90 per cent there.”

Wenger already regards Özil among the best players in the world but has now challenged him to develop into “a great” at Arsenal.

“He has all the attributes to be one of the leaders of our team,” said Wenger. “He’s at a good age. He is 25 in October. There’s room now between 25 and 30 for him to become a dominant player.

“There are many players who are very very good. To make the step to being great you have to find the right club, at the right moment. Having the mental dedication is the major difference now.”

Wenger intends to play Özil behind Olivier Giroud in his 4-2-3-1 system, with Jack Wilshere taking a deeper-lying central midfield position.

“If you look well at his Mesut’s record, his assists are fantastic,” said Wenger. “His goalscoring record, there is room for improvement. You expect him in the next years to combine those two together.

“In midfield, Jack Wilshere is more comfortable in deeper positions, and Özil more in a higher position.

"That’s why I don’t think they conflict. Jack likes to come deep to take the ball and make a difference, and then give and go again. Özil is more behind the striker, higher up on the field.”

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