Wenger faces title or bust crossroads

Having worked with Arsene Wenger for four years at Arsenal, former right-back Nigel Winterburn regards his ex-boss highly.

Winterburn, 53, said: "I've worked under Arsene Wenger, I know how good a manager he is, his passion for the football club and that he looks after his players.

"However, the league is very competitive and I understand the criticism. I think in the next two years, if he (Wenger) doesn't lead his team to a league title, they certainly have to be up there challenging (at least).

"The board will again review his contract (if he does not win the league)."

Many Arsenal fans were left bewildered when Wenger was awarded a new two-year contract after the Gunners finished fifth in the Premier League last season - their worst result in 20 years.

But as the "Wenger Out" debate rages on into the new season, the Gunners have made a poor start as they sit 12th after five games.

Winterburn, who made 584 appearances for the Gunners from 1987-2000, added on the sidelines of a press conference to promote the Nov 11 Battle of the Masters: "I just always support the manager at the club because I don't like the debate.

"At the moment, we're going through this difficult period but I still believe we're a good team."

He had predicted a tough start with the Gunners playing the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea early but expects them to turn their season around soon: "Arsenal have a period of the next six to seven games where I expect them to very quickly be up around the top four again. I really believe that."

Arsenal have not won the league since the 2003-04 "Invincibles" season, when they went undefeated.

And Winterburn believes that the debate over the manager's future will last "until Arsenal win the league again when Wenger is in charge".

Ian Kiew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger faces title or bust crossroads'. Print Edition | Subscribe