Arsène Wenger remains determined to stay on at Arsenal for yet another cycle despite the club being mired in the worst sequence of Premier League results of his long tenure.
Wenger’s team slumped to a 3-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday – their fourth reverse in five league matches – and they lie sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, although they do have two games in hand on them.
The loss at West Brom sparked the latest calls for the manager to be replaced at the end of the season when his current contract expires and on Sunday night there were reports from Germany that Arsenal had made an official approach to the Borussia Dortmund manager, Thomas Tuchel. This is understood not to be the case.
The Arsenal board have stood in support of Wenger, not least in the wake of the 10-2 aggregate Champions League elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich this month and the West Brom result has not altered their desire for him to stay on. Wenger has the offer of a new two-year contract on the table.
He said at The Hawthorns that he had made up his mind about what he was going to do regarding his future but he had yet to tell anybody. “You will know soon,” he said. “Very soon.”
He wants to stay on and, increasingly, it seems as though he and the board are trying to find the best way of selling the announcement to the fanbase, sections of which are beside themselves with frustration at the prospect of him continuing.
The timing is clearly not right to do it now and even Wenger suggested nothing would happen before Arsenal’s next game, which is after the international break at home to Manchester City on Sunday week.
The view from behind the scenes has been consistent – that the seemingly vast swath of fans across social media that would like to see Wenger go is not representative of the whole support. At West Brom there was one aeroplane that flew over the stadium trailing a banner that called for Wenger to go and another that said he should stay.
The club maintain no decision regarding Wenger has yet been taken. They also said, in a statement on 9 March, that they would reach that decision in a mutually agreeable fashion.
It seemed like an attempt by the board to combat the perception that Wenger – and Wenger alone – will decide what happens.
Wenger has problems wherever he looks. Alexis Sánchez is expected to leave in the summer, having grown increasingly frustrated at the club, while Mesut Özil is expected to link up with Germany on Monday, despite having missed the West Brom game with a hamstring injury.
Arsenal insist that, although Özil started the final training session before the match on Friday, he was unable to complete it because of the muscle problem. Özil also missed the defeat at Liverpool on 4 March.
Arsenal are threatened by the possibility of missing out on a top-four finish for the first time since Wenger came to the club in 1996 but he said that his future would not hinge on whether they qualified for the Champions League or not.
“It will not necessarily be linked with that because I’ve done the top four 20 times,” he said.
“It’s more … it’s not that. I take a bigger perspective. It’s not the last result that will decide what I will do.”