LONDON • Arsenal players are convinced that manager Arsene Wenger will sign a new contract that keeps him at the Emirates Stadium for the next two seasons.
However, the club's board fears the Frenchman will walk away in the summer because of hostility from fans, and has begun making contingency plans for appointing their first manager for 21 years.
Wenger has been offered a new two-year contract by Arsenal, which he can sign whenever he chooses.
He has said that he will make his decision in March or April, and it is likely to be determined by how the Gunners finish the season, as well as the mood of an increasingly split fan base.
Despite former Arsenal striker Ian Wright's claims that Wenger was looking weary at a private dinner, the 67-year-old has not given that impression to his players, who believe that the manager is as determined and ambitious as ever.
Nor has he given any indication to his long-serving back-room staff that he is preparing to walk away.
The majority of them would lose their jobs and Wenger may feel some obligation to them to keep them informed.
Those working with him daily claim that his manner and attitude are the same as when he was approaching the end of his contract in previous years.
Wenger has already been involved in making plans for next season at Arsenal - from giving contract extensions to players such as Per Mertesacker and determining the offers that the club are prepared to make to Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, to giving his views on travel plans, training schedules and hotel bookings for the pre-season tour of Australia.
Arsenal play FC Sydney and Western Sydney Wanderers on July 13 and 15 in the club's first visit to Australia in 40 years.
Wenger's future is likely to be decided by Arsenal's performances in their final 13 Premier League matches of the season and the FA Cup, where they are on course for their third semi-final appearance in four years as they have been drawn at home against non-League side Lincoln City in the quarter-finals.
Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League and maintaining the club's run of reaching the Champions League for 20 successive seasons may persuade Wenger to stay.
THE TIMES, LONDON