No focus on new Wenger deal: Gunners' chairman

LONDON • Arsene Wenger's Arsenal future has been called into further question after the Gunners' chairman, Chips Keswick, admitted at the club's annual general meeting yesterday that there are no talks to extend the Frenchman's contract.

Earlier, Wenger had suggested that the timing of the meeting was not ideal for him, being held the day before a match.

Arsenal host Reading in the League Cup today and the Arsenal manager's final training session before the match was affected by the meeting with shareholders, which he had to attend.

And it was not so much good news at the meeting for Wenger too as Keswick, 76, said: "We'll sit down and discuss (Wenger's contract) at an appropriate time but the current focus is maintaining our run and competing for trophies.

"We all recognise the fantastic contribution Arsene has made to club in the last 20 years."

England could yet eye a move for Wenger if interim coach Gareth Southgate does not perform up to expectations.

According to British media, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis also boosted the national team's hopes by hinting at the AGM that the Frenchman is not indispensable.

"Arsenal is not Arsene Wenger. They're not one and the same thing," he said.

"Gone are the days when Arsene would make all decisions himself. Now there is a big team around him of world-leading experts in areas such as scouting, player recruitment, analytics, medical, strength and conditioning, psychology and coaching.

"All these different areas that equip us to move forward with the game."

All the signs were pointing to Wenger not being able to stay at the London club for a 21st year, and it did not help that Arsenal were held to a disappointing 0-0 home draw by Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The stalemate ended their run of seven consecutive victories in all competitions but Wenger was unfazed.

"Let's not go overboard," the Frenchman said.

"We come out of a strong period. Everybody can have a draw.

"You don't win on command. You want to do well and win the game and, when you don't win, you deal with it."

Wenger admitted Olivier Giroud could feature in the Reading tie today.

The striker has been restricted to four substitute appearances for the club this season because of a toe injury.

"Physically, he has no problem," the manager said.

"He's still not completely there but he's better and he might be in the squad on Tuesday."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'No focus on new Wenger deal: Gunners' chairman'. Print Edition | Subscribe