Arsenal will not sack Arsène Wenger even if he misses out on the top four and fails to win the FA Cup, with reports suggesting the Gunners’ manager will still be allowed to decide his own future as his contract comes up for renewal at the end of the season.
Arsenal’s season is in serious danger of the ultimate collapse as they face the prospect of going from leading the Premier League to missing out on the top four in the space of under four months. That puts a huge amount of pressure on this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic at Wembley, and with Wenger yet to decide his own future as he weighs up an extension, there is a split-feeling among supporters of whether he should stay or not.
Wenger has confirmed his initial desire to stay on at the club and head into an 18th year of management in north London, but their dramatic drop in form has led to serious questions over his future – which includes some from his own coaching staff and the board who are in the dark over what the 64-year-old will decide.
Arsenal players who could leave the Emirates this summer
Arsenal players who could leave the Emirates this summer
1/8 Lukasz Fabianski
The Pole looks set to end his frustrating spell with the Gunners having spent the bulk of his time in north London as an understudy. Having joined the club in 2007 from Legia Warsaw, Fabianski has made just 31 Premier League appearances, having seen firstly Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann ahead of him before his compatriot Wojciech Szczesny took over between the sticks at the Emirates. Despite brief chances to make his first-team claim, injury and costly mistakes has seen Arsene Wenger lose patience with the 28-year-old, and he is likely to try and resurrect his career elsewhere.
2/8 Bacary Sagna
The biggest name who looks likely to leave the Emirates this season after contract negotiations reportedly broke down between the club and the Frenchman. Wenger’s policy to offer over-30’s a one-year extension only looks set to rob him of yet another experienced player, having seen players such as Robert Pires head for pastures new when contract talks broke down. Carl Jenkinson has shown potential that he can step up and replace Sagna, but his development is far from complete and would see one of Arsenal’s stronger positions severely weakened.
3/8 Nicklas Bendtner
The frustrating figure that is Nicklas Bendtner has looked happier at Arsenal this season than in recent years, but he is almost certain to be allowed to leave after failing to fulfil his promise that saw him held in such high esteem by Wenger back in 2004. Stints away from the club haven’t produced much in terms of success in front of goal, and Wenger’s desire to bring in a new striker looks to be the final nail in his almost buried Gunners coffin.
4/8 Kim Kallstrom
Kallstrom was Wenger’s surprise January signing, having moved to sign the Swedish international on deadline day on a loan until the end of the season. Arsenal fans got an even bigger surprise – not to mention an unwelcomed one – the following day when the 31-year-old was immediately ruled out for six weeks with an existing back injury. His stay is not expected to continue beyond the summer.
5/8 Emiliano Viviano
Brought in to provide competition with Szczesny and Fabianski, Viviano was one of Wenger’s few summer signings having been acquired on a season-long loan deal with a view to a permanent move. But the Italian has failed to make a single appearance this season, and looks likely to return to Palermo when his deal expires – although there is a hefty £5m clause to make the move permanent on top of the £1m paid for the initial loan.
6/8 Thomas Vermaelen
The Arsenal club captain is contracted until 2015, but he has spent the bulk of the past two seasons on the bench as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have struck up a formidable partnership. Despite admitting he is happy at the Emirates, he has confirmed that he will look at the situation if he remains out of favour. Having burst onto the Premier League when he joined the club in 2009, injury hampered the Belgian and he soon fell out of favour when Koscielny joined Mertesackker in the heart of the defence.
7/8 Lukas Podolski
The German’s run-out against Sunderland on the weekend was just the fifth time in his Arsenal career that Podolski has completed 90 minutes. While he exuberates the feel-good atmosphere currently surrounding the Gunners squad, and is part of an ever-growing number of Germans under Wenger’s guidance, he could lose patience with his inconsistency when it comes to first team selection.
8/8 Arsene Wenger
The manager himself is yet to commit to a new contract, and while his extension is expected imminently (it may already be a case of deal-done) he future cannot be made clear until an announcement is made. A collapse during their difficult March schedule could see a new contract thrown into jeopardy.
The 3-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday saw the Merseyside club take the advantage in the race for fourth place, as they sit a point off the Gunners with a game in hand. With Arsenal focusing on their cup commitments this weekend, the Toffees will go fourth if they earn a draw or better when they face relegation-threatened Sunderland on Saturday at the Stadium of Light.
Claims on Twitter suggested that Wenger received verbal abuse from disillusioned Arsenal fans as the squad made their way back to Liverpool Lime Street Station following the defeat – although the club are unaware of any incident – but the loss of belief in Wenger’s ability to lead the team to success is reminiscent of the reaction he received after the opening day defeat to Aston Villa.
Should the Frenchman, who has been linked with the Paris St-Germain job in the past, feel that he has lost the support of the fans, he will likely call time on his Arsenal career.
Supporters’ group The Black Scarf Movement carried out a poll to last week asking fans to vote on whether or not they want Wenger to remain with the club depending on the outcome of Arsenal’s league and cup campaign.
68 per cent backed a new contract for Wenger should he achieve both a first FA Cup success since 2005 and a 17th top four finish, with 56 per cent wanting him to stay if he achieves only the former and 61 per cent if he qualifies for the Champions League but suffers another cup heartbreak.
Should he miss out completely, 54 per cent of the 8,174 fans that voted would still be in favour of keeping him at the club, although a rolling one-year contract would be the favoured option.
Arsenal’s majority owner Stan Kroenke has remained quiet on the matter, but is said to be happy with keeping Wenger in charge at the club beyond the summer. The American feels that Arsenal’s significant dip in form is down the deluge of injuries to key players at an important time in the season, given that Wenger has been unable to call on the services of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil and most recently Laurent Koscielny through serious injuries.
Ramsey made his return from a 14-week lay-off in the Everton defeat, and the midfielder – who was largely to thank for Arsenal’s rise to the top in the first half of the season – is determined to earn his first piece of silverware with the club as well as maintain their Champions League status.
“It was very frustrating for me to be out for three months of the season when things were looking so good,” explained Ramsey. “Hopefully I can show what I can do, help this team achieve Champions League again and, hopefully, at the end of the season have a medal.”
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