Wenger signs a new two-year deal with Arsenal. The Guardians David Hytner wrote:” Stan Kroenke “won’t rest” until Arsenal have made it to the pinnacle of the game in England and Europe, and insists Arsène Wenger is the best man to take them there.
The club’s majority shareholder made his comments as the club confirmed Wenger would remain in charge for another two years. Wenger’s contract had been due to expire on 30 June and the uncertainty over whether he would sign up for another cycle has cast long shadows over the past season
Even Wenger has admitted it was not the best move to leave the announcement until the end of it, which came on Saturday with the FA Cup final victory against Chelsea. For the first time under Wenger, Arsenal finished outside the Premier League’s top four and missed out on Champions League qualification. Their fifth‑placed finish has put them in the Europa League for next season.
Kroenke and Wenger are keen to look forward and they know winning the league for the first time since 2004 has to be the priority. To many supporters, the decision to persist with Wenger will be vindicated only if the club win the title.
“Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe,” Kroenke said. “It’s what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won’t rest until that is achieved. Arsène is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing.”
The club said the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, had – together with Wenger – carried out a “full review of our on- and off-the-pitch activities to identify areas for improvement to build a sustained title challenge”. This touched on Gazidis’s “catalyst for change” reforms; he believes that, after a disappointing season, there must be tweaks to various structures around the manager.
The precise nature of the changes are unclear but it is understood Wenger has had to agree to certain alterations regarding his back-room staff. The most likely casualty is the goalkeeping coach, Gerry Peyton, and there could be others.
Wenger is fiercely loyal to all his staff but it felt significant to hear him say: “We are looking at what we do well and how we can be stronger everywhere.”
He added: “I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement. This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful. We’re committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season.
“I am grateful to have the support of the board and Stan in doing everything we can to win more trophies. It’s what we all want and I know it’s what our fans around the world demand.”
The club are keen to complete their summer transfer business as quickly as possible and they have finalised a deal for Sead Kolasinac, the Schalke left-back, who will join as a free agent. They also stressed in their statement on Wenger that they had made a “record £110m investment in players” last summer. It was when they signed Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Pérez and Rob Holding, although the widely quoted fees for that quartet add up to £90m.
Gazidis said: “There is no complacency anywhere at this club. Our goal is to compete for and win trophies here and in Europe. Everything we do is designed to make that happen and we will be working hard on and off the pitch this summer to improve and make a strong challenge next season.
“The club has grown beyond recognition in every aspect in recent years and we have the platform to be successful and meet the ambitions we and our fans share.
“When you look at the world of football, and you think about the great candidates that there are – and there are many great coaching candidates in the world and Arsenal is a club that all of them would want to work for because of the things we represent in football. But when you look around and make that assessment, you don’t find any better candidates than Arsène Wenger.
“Let’s put the club above everything else. Let’s get behind this team because they deserve our fans’ support. Together, we can achieve great things.
“Remember, the motto of this football club is ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’, victory through harmony. We need to restore that harmony by getting behind the team to achieve success together. That’s where we have a chance.”
Alisher Usmanov, who holds a 30% stake in the club but does not have a seat on the board, welcomed the confirmation of Wenger’s contract but warned that unless Wenger was supported fully in the transfer market the manager would risk tarnishing his legacy. Usmanov recently launched an unsuccessful takeover bid and he remains frozen out of any decision-making.
“I am pleased Arsène Wenger will continue to manage Arsenal for the next two years as he is one of the very best coaches in Europe,” he said. “What is now of paramount importance is that he receives the full support of the board and majority shareholder. He has a great opportunity to deliver the success the fans deserve and the legacy his long contribution merits. However, without the right support there remains a real risk his legacy will be tarnished. If the support is not forthcoming, we stand ready to step in and do everything we can to deliver success on and off the field.”
Santi Cazorla has said he has undergone another operation in a bid to rectify the achilles problem that wrecked his season. The midfielder was injured in the Champions League game against Ludogorets in October and he told a Spanish radio station it was the eighth operation he had endured. Cazorla remains under contract at Arsenal for one more season after the club took up the option they had on the 32-year-old. Wenger confirmed in January the option had been activated.
“It’s been a difficult season,” Cazorla said. “Since I last played, I’ve been through surgery eight times. I have not been told [comeback] deadlines. It is very difficult to put exact dates but I don’t think it will be more than five months.”