'Wenger in, Wenger out' Debacle goes on

Arsenal poised to miss out on top four, with the manager's future very much in the dark

LONDON • Arsenal will wait until the end of the season to clarify Arsene Wenger's future as unrest at the prospect of a new contract for the embattled manager continues to grow.

Wenger had hoped to announce this month that he was signing a new deal to stay on as manager but his team's drastic loss of form - and an increasingly hostile mood among the club's fanbase - has caused some strain within the Arsenal hierarchy, and forced a reappraisal.

It means that the uncertainty will drag on until after the Premier League season finishes on May 21, or potentially the following weekend if Arsenal reach the FA Cup final.

Arsenal sources continue to deny that a new contract for Wenger is a fait accompli, insisting that any decision will be reached "mutually".

The widespread expectation remains that he will sign the new deal, which was initially offered last year, but some obstacles have to be overcome as Arsenal face up to the likelihood of failing to qualify for the Champions League football for the first time in two decades.

The club's chief executive Ivan Gazidis has spoken about the need for "change" and is determined that if Wenger is to stay, it should be within a revamped structure under a new sporting director.

Former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars, 44, has emerged as a potential candidate for that role, reported the Daily Mail.

The director of football at Ajax spent four years at the north London club, winning the double under Wenger in 1997-98.

Borussia Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc, 54, is also reportedly under consideration.

Another option that has been discussed by the board is for a new coach to be appointed to work under Wenger next season, with a view to grooming him as a successor.

It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman would accept such a proposal, but it was encouraged earlier this week by Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal's second biggest shareholder, who suggested that the long-serving manager should be permitted to "prepare a successor".

Arsenal are sixth in the table - seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more than the Gunners.

Failure to reach the Champions League could mean that Arsenal make a financial loss for the first time since they moved to the Emirates Stadium, and a drop in income of about £30million (S$52 million).

Arsenal would stand to earn around £17 million from the Europa League instead of £45 million from the Champions League.

The London club have made profits of less than £20 million in four out of the past five years, and the loss of Champions League TV money could tip the balance.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline ''Wenger in, Wenger out' Debacle goes on'. Print Edition | Subscribe