Football: Arsene Wenger wants total control at Arsenal

Arsenal forward Mesut Ozil is likely to feature against Southampton today in the Gunners' bid for a top-four finish.
Arsenal forward Mesut Ozil is likely to feature against Southampton today in the Gunners' bid for a top-four finish.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Arsenal manager rules out working with a director of football at the end of this season

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has ruled out working alongside a director of football if he stays at Arsenal, saying he must have full control of the Premier League football club.

The manager's hardline stance puts him on a potential collision course with members of the Arsenal hierarchy, who reportedly want to bring in a director of football at the end of this season to work with Wenger.

The Frenchman has called the shots at the North London club since he joined in 1996 and said he had no interest in having his authority diminished, even as his future remains mired in uncertainty and with the fans restless.

"I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I'm manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front, that's it," the 67-year-old Wenger said on the eve of today's Premier League match at Southampton.

"I don't know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don't understand and I never did understand what it means."

Wenger previously said that he had made up his mind about his future and would announce it in March or last month, but no announcement was forthcoming.

His Arsenal contract expires at the end of this season and, while a fresh deal is reportedly on the table, some Arsenal fans have called for his head after a disappointing run that saw them humiliated in the Champions League by Bayern Munich. The Gunners are also out of the Premier League top four now.

Asked yesterday if he would reveal his decision whether to sign the contract, Wenger replied simply: "No."

Arsenal are in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in his long reign, even though Sunday's 2-0 win over Manchester United moved them to within six points of fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.

Arsenal will also contest their third FA Cup final in four seasons later this month, while Sunday's success saw Wenger at last get the better of United manager Jose Mourinho at the 13th attempt.

"It gives us still a chance to go into the top four," said Wenger.

Former United defender Phil Neville criticised the cordial way players from United and Arsenal were seen joking and hugging each other before kick-off, a far cry from the frosty atmosphere that pervaded his own encounters with the Gunners.

"I think I understand that the pundits are a bit surprised by that because 10 or 15 years ago that did not exist," Wenger said.

"But it is an overall, international thing now.

"You can watch Real Madrid against Barcelona - it's the same because people play together, come from the same country.

"I was surprised as well I must say, but I must confess as well that it doesn't stop the players to focus and concentrate on the game after that."

Arsenal, beaten 4-0 by Southampton in last season's corresponding fixture at St Mary's, travel to the south coast with a fitness doubt over Laurent Koscielny, after the defender suffered a calf injury against United, and midfielder Granit Xhaka.



Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, tomorrow, 2.45am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger wants total control'. Print Edition | Subscribe