Arsenal AGM: Arsenal shareholders to tell board to resolve Arsene Wenger's future quickly next seasonArsenal AGM: Arsenal shareholders to tell board to resolve Arsene Wenger's future quickly next season
Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board will be asked at Thursday’s annual general meeting to make a final decision on the club’s managerial future well before the end of next season so as to avoid a repeat of this year’s uncertainty.
Wenger did eventually agree a new two-year deal until May 2019 but, for the second contract in succession, final confirmation did not come until the previous season had ended.
The 68-year-old has since acknowledged himself that the team were affected amid a collapse in form between January and March that effectively cost the club a place in the Champions League. Arsenal did also rally to win a record-breaking 13th FA Cup – and seventh under Wenger – but shareholders will make it clear that a repeat of this uncertainty should be avoided next season.
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The situation largely resulted from Wenger’s own uncertainty and, while the support of majority owner Stan Kroenke never wavered, it became difficult to make any announcement once Wenger had communicated his desire to go on in March. By then, Arsenal were on a dreadful run of results and there was a desire also to finalise some off-field additions to the support staff. A group of players went to see Wenger to seek clarification and he did eventually tell them that he intended to stay but that they needed an upturn in form. Arsenal did then end the season with 10 wins in 11 matches, including against Manchester City and then Premier League champions Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final and final.
“I created, with my not deciding, a lack of clarity in the dressing room - and there’s nothing worse than that in the dressing room,” admitted Wenger. “When you’re not completely in, or the players feel you’re not completely in, it’s difficult to tell them ‘we go’. So at some stage I had to tell them, look guys, 'I’m with you, but we have to win games.’"
A survey by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust ahead of this week’s AGM has underlined the importance to those shareholders of finding a way to avoid a similar scenario next season. A total of 90 per cent of respondents believes that a firm decision should be made and announced “well before the end of his contract in May 2019”.
One pre-submitted shareholder question for Thursday also asks: “Arsene Wenger himself admitted that the uncertainty around his contract situation was highly disruptive to the team’s end of season performances. What has the board learnt from the way this was handled and will a decision on the manager’s future be taken any earlier than May 2019 in a bid to avoid more confusion?”
Support for greater off-field change around Wenger was also evident in the survey. Wenger dismissed the idea of a director of football earlier in the year and, while a new director of high performance and a contracts expert (Darren Burgess and Huss Fahmy) were appointed, many fans still think another over-arching appointment should be made. A total of 68 per cent respondents to the survey were in favour of a director of football at Arsenal.
The issue of player contract negotiations will also be raised on Thursday, partly due to the departure of negotiator Dick Law but also with high-profile players such as Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere now into the final year of their contract.
As well as contracts, there will be questions on other more long-standing issues at Thursday’s AGM. They will include the composition of the board, whether Arsenal’s self-sustaining model can still make the club competitive with the very elite of world football, ticket prices and the club’s commercial performance.