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.
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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