Football: Wenger refuses to shut England door

Wenger has refused to shut the door on England.
Wenger has refused to shut the door on England. PHOTO: AFP

Arsenal manager coy on links to England job as former FA chief backs Frenchman

LONDON • Arsene Wenger would be an ideal England coach and the Football Association (FA) should be prepared to wait until his Arsenal contract runs out in order to appoint the Frenchman, former FA executive director David Davies has said.

Davies, who spent more than a decade at the FA, believes Wenger would be a perfect replacement for Sam Allardyce and England should appoint a caretaker coach until Wenger is free to leave the Gunners in the close season.

"I would like to be confident he (Wenger) had been asked, quite straightforwardly, if he would like to be England manager in the near future," Davies told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Not next week, or at Christmas, but when his contract ends, as he would like to fulfil it. They can have a caretaker until then, perhaps Gareth Southgate with an experienced assistant."

Davies added that the position is more suited to an experienced man such as the 66-year-old Wenger.

 

  • England manager: Potential candidates

    •Arsene Wenger, 66 (above) Arsenal manager

    •Gareth Southgate, 46 England Under-21 coach

    •Steve Bruce, 55 Currently unemployed

    •Alan Pardew, 55 Crystal Palace manager

    •Eddie Howe, 38 Bournemouth manager

"There are a number of very strong candidates but my instinct tells me they would tend to be the more experienced people," he said.

"Arsene knows the English game better than anyone after all the years at Arsenal. He is one of the best prepared managers around."

Quizzed on possible England interest after Arsenal's 2-0 Champions League win over Basel on Wednesday, Wenger stopped short of confirming he would snub an FA approach.

The Frenchman, who is this week celebrating 20 years with the Gunners, underlined his commitment to Arsenal, but also said his future was only tied to the north Londoners until the end of the season.

Asked if he was flattered to be linked with the England job, Wenger said: "Of course, but my priority has always been this club and until the end of this season I am here. I'm completely focused on this club. Nothing will change on that."

Wenger traditionally operates on a year-to-year basis these days and only decides whether he wants to continue as Arsenal's manager late in each season. That approach gives a little hope to the FA if they make Wenger their top target and he answered with a nod and a smile when asked if he knew the words to the English national anthem.

Prior to this English Premier League season, Arsenal fans had been frustrated with Wenger, especially since the last time the club won the league title was in the 2003-04 season. That could be a push factor for the Arsenal hierarchy to look for a fresh managerial approach, and for Wenger to seek a different challenge.

It remains to be seen, however, if Wenger would be willing to take a pay cut from an estimated £8 million (S$14.18 million) annual salary to the £3 million that the FA offered Allardyce.

BEST MAN FOR THE JOB

Arsene knows the English game better than anyone after all the years at Arsenal. He is one of the best prepared managers around.

'' DAVID DAVIES , former FA executive director on why Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is the best candidate for the England job.

While the search for a new England manager continues, England Under-21 coach Southgate has been put in temporary charge of the upcoming four matches.

The Times learnt that the 46-year-old is relishing the opportunity to stake a claim for the job on a full-time basis.

He is aiming to prove that he is up to the task in World Cup qualifiers against Malta, Slovenia and Scotland and a friendly against Spain in the next seven weeks.

"The focus now has to be on playing football, putting in good performances and getting results, starting with Malta at Wembley," Southgate said. "These are four big games for us as a country, I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm confident that we can get good results."

Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew and Eddie Howe have also been linked as potential candidates. But Crystal Palace boss Pardew and Bournemouth manager Howe both ruled themselves out yesterday.

"It sounds arrogant but I am not interested in the (England) job now, but you never know what will happen in the future," Howe said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger refuses to shut England door'. Print Edition | Subscribe