Arsenal in limbo while Arsene Wenger remains master of his own destiny

James Benge
Evening Standard

And so a decision has been made. We may not know whether Arsene Wenger will stay or go at Arsenal, but at least someone does now.

If Arsenal’s season were one of those prestigious US cable dramas – and there is more than a little of The Sopranos to Wenger’s struggles keeping his Arsenal family together – we would just have reached the revelation at the end of the season’s penultimate episode.

But is the finale coming soon? That remains unclear.

When asked by Standard Sport whether the protests before and during the 3-1 defeat to West Bromboth aerial and in the away end – might subside if he announced a decision on his future, Wenger was surprisingly open.

A man who had pronounced himself unwilling to debate the same old issues on Thursday was now saying his fate would be announced "very soon".

His relatively relaxed demeanour – despite the debilitating nature of the 3-1 loss at West Brom – could perhaps point to him knowing the end is in sight.

Alternatively he could simply feel reassured in knowing that majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has his back even if Arsenal miss out on Champions League qualification.

At times in recent weeks it has seemed that the end is in sight. But it is not so long ago that Wenger was vowing to manage again this season no matter what - preferably at Arsenal, but elsewhere if necessary.

If it is still too soon to know whether Wenger will stay or go, his comments - reminiscent of Luis Enrique’s off-hand announcement earlier this year that he was tired of managing Barcelona and would be leaving at the end of the season - still provided a valuable insight into the Frenchman’s relationship with the Arsenal board.

When fan pressure finally compelled them to comment, chairman Sir Chips Keswick insisted that Wenger’s future was not his alone to decide.

Any decision on the new two-year contract believed to have been offered to Wenger would be "made by us [manager and board] mutually and communicated at the right time."

Presumably it was not Keswick’s intention that that decision was, if not communicated, then at least previewed in the aftermath of Arsenal’s worst defeat of the season.

And yet Wenger insisted that no-one other than him knew what his decision was.

After first telling Standard Sport that he would announce his decision "very soon" he was asked whether anyone else was aware of his plans.

"I know what I do." Does anyone else? "No, no, no."

It seems to belie the suggestion that any decision could possibly be mutual – how could it be if Wenger has not told anyone at the club?

If he has decided to leave surely he would tell the board as soon as possible so that they can begin the laborious task of finding his replacement.

When Pep Guardiola announced he would not renew his Bayern Munich contract last season, Carlo Ancelotti's appointment was confirmed before Christmas.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That is what is required at Europe's top table, where Arsenal have ambitions of sitting. Would Massimiliano Allegri or any of the other prospective Wenger replacements have the time to plan the overhaul required at the Emirates if the incumbent continues to keep everyone waiting?

And if he is staying, what does it say of Keswick’s claims that the decision will be "mutual"?

There had always been doubts as to whether anyone on the Arsenal board had the appetite to question Wenger’s ability to lead a club enduring their worst run of form since 1995. It appears no-one in the Emirates is asking the question.

It seems that Wenger, and Wenger alone, has made his decision. Fans, players and quite possible even his bosses are now left waiting for his revelation.

What to read next

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes