The main stories in the media surrounding Arsenal Football Club in this final week of the Premiership season include some reports in recent days that manager Arsene Wenger might leave the London club for Real Madrid this summer.
Such rumors have emerged since last week’s shareholder meeting when Arsene Wenger voiced his criticism over questions directed to him from club supporters who were attending.
Heated exchanges at the event, along with a pledge from Madrid presidential candidate Florentino Perez to make Wenger his first choice as the club’s new manager next season should he be elected this summer, led to stories in the British press that the Frenchman would be looking to leave Arsenal.
But according to more recent quotes from Wenger in such places as a Daily Mail article, he will continue as Arsenal manager and spurn the advances of Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Even while previously admitting that the advances from Madrid were ”strongly interesting,” Wenger is quoted in Wednesday’s Daily Mail insisting that he has no plans to quit the Emirates.
”There’s nothing to worry about, it’s not an issue for me,” he told the newspaper. ”I’m staying here. If that changes I will let you know, but don’t worry about that. It’s not an issue.”
Wenger’s comments reportedly came on a day in which he had a three-hour meeting with Ivan Gazidis, the club’s new chief executive, at Arsenal’s training ground in London Colney to discuss transfer targets and budgets.
Since arriving at the club in 1996, Wenger has impressively transformed Arsenal’s playing style along with the club’s fortunes, leading his charges to three Premiership titles, league and cup doubles in 1998 and 2002, and into the UEFA Champions League final in 2006.
But a drought without any trophies the past four seasons has caused concern among some Arsenal supporters who have seemed to lose patience with the manager and his policies this spring. While conceding the team has considerable young talent, the naysayers and doubters believe the side lacks both experience and strength in depth to challenge for titles with rival clubs who seem more willing to “splash the cash” for big-name player signings.
Considering the manager’s record, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has stated that the criticism of Wenger is “out of order,” and that he believes the Frenchman will remain in charge at the Emirates at least until 2011, when his current contract expires.
Former Gunner defender Lee Dixon agrees, telling the London Evening Standard that “I am gob-smacked that people have started calling for his head. People are very short-sighted. It is the modern-day supporter who wants success yesterday.”
“Yes, we have gone four seasons without a trophy and have been off the pace in the Premier League this season, which is Wenger’s trophy priority, but he is as frustrated as anyone else,” continued Dixon, who maintains Arsenal will soon deliver silverware once again.
“He feels the frustration just like anyone else,” Dixon added. “He has produced one of the best training grounds in the world, one of the best stadiums in the world and some of the most attractive football ever been played. And people still just say ‘we haven’t won anything.’ They just have to be a bit more patient.”
Support is also coming from fans who feel that fellow supporters should remain faithful to the club and its successful manager as it heads forward for the 2009-10 season. In fact, hundreds of Arsenal supporters will take part in a march before Sunday’s home match with Stoke City to show their support for Wenger and help persuade the manager not to leave for Real Madrid this summer. This “march of solidarity” is being organized by the supporters group RedAction.
And the Arsenal Supporters Trust, which was established in 2003 to promote the interest of facilitate involvement of supporters who own shares in the club, has released a statement on its web site on the matter, saying, “Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest managers Arsenal has ever had. In the last few years he has performed arguably his best work by continuing to deliver Champions League football within the financial constraints created by the move to the Emirates stadium.
“Arsene must stay but if there is a need for change it is to the parameters within which he has been forced to work. The Trust met with impressive new chief executive Ivan Gazidis last week. He understands the importance of providing both the funds and hands-on support for the manager in the transfer market so that Arsene can complete his work and take Arsenal back to the top. All shareholders, large and small, should unite behind this plan and play their respective parts in it.”