Arsene Wenger looks set, according to the British media, to be offered and agree to a new contract at an Arsenal board meeting on Tuesday, ending months of uncertainty which the Frenchman admitted affected performances.
Here we look at five problem areas which will need addressing in order to make next season a less bumpy ride for the 67-year-old and for the Gunners supporters:
This has been a perennial gripe for fans and pundits alike, that Wenger doesn’t like to get involved in bidding wars with the Gunners’ major rivals and resorts to what appear to be last-minute panic buys and paying over the odds. Some board members reacting to these concerns wished to install a director of football who could work on potential transfer targets but this has been vehemently opposed by Wenger.
“I don’t understand and I never did understand what it (director of football) means,” he said. Some reports suggest the person hired could be titled a director of operations but with his duties restricted to scouting and analytics.
Building bridges with fans
A few olive branches required here. Wenger made clear on Saturday, both before and after the FA Cup final win over Chelsea, his hurt and anger at certain sections of the Arsenal support venting their spleen at him during the season and demanding he go. Normally placid and cerebral in his remarks to the press, he was especially frank in his pre-FA Cup final interview with the BBC.
“The lack of respect from some has been a disgrace and I will never accept that. I will never forget it….That kind of behaviour does not reflect what Arsenal is,” he said.
Former players critical of Wenger as well as those fans who wanted him out would reply they have had to witness Groundhog Day almost every season since their last Premier League title (‘The Invincibles’ unbeaten campaign in 2003/04) of failing to keep star names, replacing them often with poor purchases and not really threatening to win the championship at the business end of a season.
Persuading Sanchez to sign new contract
Alexis Sanchez’s performance in the FA Cup final illustrated how crucial he is to the Gunners. His contract expires in 2018 and persuading him to sign a new deal is pivotal to Wenger winning some brownie points with the disenchanted fans as he could then build a team around him and a serious title challenge as a result.
The 28-year-old Chilean, though, has made it clear to be a great player you need to win trophies on a regular basis — two Copas America have sated his international appetite — hence why Bayern Munich’s apparent interest in him could turn his head.
Relations with Gazidis
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has largely been supportive of Wenger but the South Africa-born administrator admitted to fans in April there would have to be changes even if Wenger stayed. That apparently upset Wenger and put pressure on their relationship. The 52-year-old — who has been in situ since 2009 and is broadly supportive of the Frenchman — will not wish to be seen to having promised changes only for none to be forthcoming, even if it leaves Wenger fuming.
There has been disquiet about some of Wenger’s coaching staff with, according to The Times on Monday, goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton and fitness coach Tony Colbert in the eye of the storm. The Frenchman, however, is none too keen to see changes in his personnel — former Ireland international Peyton has been with him since 2003 and Colbert, a sports and exercise scientist, arrived in 1999.
Some form of compromise will be sought, but it will be a surprise not to see some changes if only to show the board isn’t totally at the behest of Wenger.