Wenger for Highbury - then Weah

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The Independent Online
Football

Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman whom the Association has sought to woo as its new technical director, is expected to be appointed manager of Arsenal today in succession to Bruce Rioch, who was dismissed on Monday. With a name like his, some would say it was a formality.

Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal chairman, declined to deny that Wenger was about to arrive at Highbury. "Nothing is confirmed," he said. "There is a lot of speculation around, but I am not in a position to comment."

However Hill-Wood cited Rioch's alleged lack of communication as the main reason why he was sacked. "He hardly talked to us. We did not know what was going on or what his thoughts were and that is not healthy," he said. "We employed him in good faith and thought he was the right man for the job. He was not and now we are looking again.''

Should Wenger get the job he could well succeed where Rioch failed in luring George Weah, the World er of the Year, to Highbury. The Liberian striker, who plays for Milan, is a protege of Wenger.

The former Monaco coach moved into pole position for the job yesterday after doubts surfaced about the readiness of Johan Cruyff to return to the game after his dismissal by Barcelona this summer. Like another candidate, Terry Venables, Cruyff will be busy with litigation next month, suing the Spanish club for wrongful dismissal.

Wenger, a close associate of Glenn Hoddle, the England coach, following their time together in the Principality, has resisted the Association's overtures because of his unwillingness to take up a desk job.

Wenger is now in Japan coaching Grampus Eight, but has indicated to Arsenal that he would be willing to move when his contract expires in mid-September.

Wenger and Weah have been close since the Frenchman picked the big African out of obscurity and took him to Monaco. He eventually moved to Italy, where is valued in the pounds 10m bracket.

Rioch had been working on signing Weah, who is also a target of Manchester United. Weah told Rioch through a third party that he would like to come to England but not before next year, when he plans to quit Milan.

Weah is also friendly with the Arsenal striker, Ian Wright, who in yesterday's tabloids had described Rioch's hopes of signing a player such as Weah as "impossible".

Wenger's first signing for Arsenal, however, is likely to be less ambitious. There were rumours yesterday that a little-known French midfielder called Remi Garde was about to be signed on a free transfer from Strasbourg.

Arsenal fans will not be the only ones disappointed that Cruyff no longer seems a front runner. City experts estimated that the Dutchman's signing would have added pounds 28m to the value of the club's shares.

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