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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Arsene Wenger reveals to close friends that he is preparing for his final season as Arsenal manager

Arsene Wenger has told friends that he is preparing for his final season as manager of Arsenal, Goal.com can reveal.
The Gunners boss has privately conceded that his reign at the Emirates is coming to an end, with newly rich Paris Saint-Germain keeping a close eye on his situation

The Frenchman has three years remaining on the new contract that he signed last summer but has privately conceded that his tenure at the club is coming to an end.

The longest-serving manager in Arsenal’s history has already begun considering other options in football because he fears his powerbase will eventually be diminished by new owner Stan Kroenke and has been shocked by the growing criticism he has received from supporters over the last 12 months.

Goal.com understands that Wenger met a Manchester City delegation led by chief executive Garry Cook and football administrator Brian Marwood at a hotel in Kensington, west London, in May although there is no confirmation that the Frenchman either sought to or was asked to replace Roberto Mancini at Etihad Stadium.

Nevertheless, the Arsenal manager held informal talks with the new owners of Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain this summer to discuss the prospect of him taking over as manager at the French club.

PSG - who have spent heavily on new players, including £37 million on Javier Pastore, over the last two months - targeted Wenger as their No.1 choice to use the club’s financial muscle to restore their place at the summit of French football and establish them among the Champions League elite. The club has not won Ligue 1 since 1994.

Wenger, who owns an apartment close to PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium, rejected the opportunity although he admitted in an interview with a Strasbourg TV station in June that he has long-standing friendships with senior officials at the club. It is believed that the Arsenal manager has had a loose arrangement for many years to advise PSG on transfers and recruitment strategy.

One source said that Wenger has established a “great relationship” with the French club’s Qatari investors, who could make another move for him if PSG underachieve this season under new sporting director Leonardo and manager Antoine Kombouare.

His relationship with Arsenal supporters has become increasingly tense over the last year, particularly after the club extended their trophy drought to six years following a disastrous finish to last season.

Wenger promised that he would be “very active” in the transfer market in the summer as he pledged to rebuild a team that has faded badly in recent campaigns and, while he has spent relatively large sums on two attacking midfielders, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with the new Premier League season about to kick off, he has yet to address the club’s chronic defensive frailties.

The Frenchman still retains the full support of the Arsenal board and there is believed to be little appetite for change at the top of a club whose ambition has generally been restricted to securing a Champions League place, something Wenger will do for the 14th consecutive season if his team beat Udinese in a qualifier later this month.

However, Wenger knows that the criticism from the stands will reach unprecedented levels if Arsenal begin what is a tricky start to the season in sluggish fashion, particularly if it follows the anticipated sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City.

Those close to the Frenchman say he increasingly feels it is time for a new challenge, a situation exacerbated by the growing uncertainty caused by Kroenke’s takeover and Alisher Usmanov’s increased shareholding.

He is proud of his record of honouring his contracts throughout his coaching career and has consistently stated he will do the same at Arsenal. The cost of paying off the Frenchman’s £6million-a-year contract, which is supplemented by a £1m bonus for winning the Champions League, would mean that only a cataclysmic start to the season would lead to him being removed from his post before Christmas.

Wenger, who is 62 in October, has no medium-term plans for either retirement or a less hands-on role ‘upstairs’. He wants to continue in management and the prospect of overseeing an ambitious project in club football is one that appeals to him.

Wenger’s agent Leon Angel refused to comment on his client’s situation.

ORIGINAL POST:http://www.goal.com/en-gb/news/2896/premier-league/2011/08/13/2617767/arsene-wenger-reveals-to-close-friends-that-he-is-preparing


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