Arsene Wenger looks set to put pen to paper on a new contract that will keep him at Arsenal beyond the end of the current season, with an announcement expected to be made in the next few weeks.
The Frenchman is the longest serving manager in the Premier League by some way, having taken the job back in 1996, and although his current contract expires this year, the Gunners resurgence looks to have appeased fans that were calling for his head not so long ago.
Mesut Ozil’s £42.5m signing last summer suggested that Wenger was willing to spend big in order to compete with their main rivals, having shown a reluctance to shell out such a fee in recent seasons. What followed was a brilliant run of form that has seen the north London side sit pretty at the top of the Premier League for some time, and renewed optimism at the Emirates has coincided with new financial deals that looks set to strengthen the club in the years to come.
Speaking in a pre-match press conference ahead of the league visit of Fulham on Saturday, Wenger confirmed that there comes a time when a decision must be made, but he left those in attendance in the lurch as to whether that time had come.
“There is always a point where you have to decide, of course,” Wenger said. “There is a point where you have to decide and there is a point where you have to make your decision public."
When pushed further for an answer on his current preference, Wenger replied: “You can take of that sentence the way you want it.”
Despite his current precarious contract status, the club’s transfer plans have taken preference in recent weeks, with fans and pundits alike suggesting Arsenal require another striker to really push forward their title credentials and compete in the second half of the season with Manchester City and Chelsea.
But Wenger is clearly taking pleasure in dumbfounding those claims as he sticks with his current crop of strikers, even though Nicklas Bendtner, Yaya Sanogo and Theo Walcott are injured while Lukas Podolski only returned from injury last month.
Olivier Giroud has been leading the line for the Gunners, having notched his ninth league goal in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa last Monday, and despite reports that Wenger will attempt to sign Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov – a player he does admire – he has rubbished those claims as well.
“Do I rate Berbatov as player? Highly. Have we made any approach to sign Berbatov? No,” said Wenger.
“I don't think (we would look to sign Berbatov) because we have (Nicklas) Bendtner who is coming back, we have Yaya Sanogo who is making very good progress in training.
“Of course we have lost Theo Walcott and that for us was a big blow. Hopefully we can compensate, but we have not made any approach (for Berbatov).”
Transfer news: Strikers Arsenal could sign in January
Transfer news: Strikers Arsenal could sign in January
1/7 Diego Costa
The Atletico Madrid star has recently signed a new contract to remain in the Spanish capital, although it is reported that a £32m release clause can be activated to try and negotiate a move. Costa’s decision to leave Atletico would be surprising though, given their competitiveness in La Liga as they sit level on points with leaders Barcelona, and also their brilliant run in the Champions League. A move to London could also jeopardise his hopes of making the Spain squad for the 2014 World Cup after electing to play for the reigning champions rather than his native Brazil.
2/7 Dimitar Berbatov
His agent has already claimed that the Bulgarian would like to leave Fulham this month despite his contract expiring at the end of the season. With £2m believed to be enough to secure the former Tottenham and Manchester United striker, it would be a low cost, low risk option, but questions remain over his work rate and energy levels, and Wenger has denied any interest on his part. Whether Berbatov would quench the thirst of fans who feel another striker in integral to their title hopes remains uncertain, but he does come with a natural talent that few in the Premier League can match – if only he produced it regularly.
3/7 Karim Benzema
The Real Madrid striker was linked with a move away from the club in the summer after struggling to produce the form required to spearhead an attack that includes Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. But the Frenchman has since hit his best, and a much mooted move to Arsenal now appears off the cards with Carlo Ancelotti determined not to sell. Benzema would no doubt be a world class acquisition that would provide further optimism at the Emirates that the Gunners are here to stay at the top, but it may take in excess of £30m (and thus bankroll a Real move for Luis Suarez) to trigger any chance of signing him this month.
Verdict: The slimmest of chances
4/7 Alvaro Morata
Benzema’s colleague at Real Madrid has been linked with a short-term move in the hope of seeking regular first team action, with Arsenal and Tottenham at the forefront of those rumours. Ancelotti’s desire not to let any players depart again causes an issue, but chances of securing Morata are much higher given Benzema’s current standing as the starting striker. Unproven, Morata would be an exciting talent but also back-up to Giroud, and you would have to question a decision to move to the Emirates when first team football is by no means guaranteed.
5/7 Mario Mandzukic
The Bayern Munich striker looks set to be displaced in his role as lead striker at the end of the season by the recently acquired Robert Lewandowski, and reports this morning suggest that Arsenal are one of the clubs interest in his services. A proven goalscorers, the Croatian would add experience and talent to the squad, but he’s unlikely to jump ship with Bayern on course for another trophy-laden season.
Verdict: Watch this space in summer
6/7 Loic Remy
On loan at Newcastle from Queens Park Rangers, Remy is available in January should Rangers receive a good enough offer. Remy has looked sharp throughout the first half of the season, leading the line for the Magpies with 10 goals in 18 appearances. It could take over £10m to acquire the Frenchman though, but Remy would inject a turn of pace that Giroud does seem to lack at the moment.
Verdict: Very possible
Swansea’s signing of the season last year hasn’t been as prolific this term, but his eye for a goal remains undoubted given his 22 goals in all competitions during his first year at the Liberty Stadium. However, Michu is currently on the sidelines through injury and would be a pointless signing to solve the current injury situation that the Gunners have. Despite links with the Spaniard, this move looks like a complete no-go.
Verdict: No chance