Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has quashed rumors about a possible exit from the Emirates Stadium by penning a three-year £24 million deal to remain in north London. The Frenchman, who has led the Gunners to eight major trophies since arriving in the Premier League in 1996, will stay on until 2017.
The new deal comes on the back of Wenger leading Arsenal to a 17th successive Champions League berth and ending a nine-year wait for silverware by winning the FA Cup earlier this month. Wenger said his side were entering what he called “an exciting period” die to the fact he now has a strong squad, money and support.
Wenger, whose previous contract was going to expire in the summer, had come under pressure from fans and the media for not having any major honors since the 2005 FA Cup. However, Arsenal did reach the Champions League final in 2006 only to be defeated by Barcelona.
During Wenger’s reign, Arsenal moved to their current home from the famous Highbury. Wenger also became the longest-serving manager in England when Sir Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in May last year. Among Wenger’s other credits are introducing different ideas and approaches to sports science and nutrition to the English game.
Nevertheless, Wenger did not enjoy the best of seasons in the 2013/14 campaign. A 6-0 mauling by Chelsea in March during his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal led many to believe he was on his way out of the club. Now that Arsenal can look back at the fact they ended the season on a high, Wenger’s has quashed rumors of an exit by committing his future to Arsenal.
During his time as Arsenal boss, Wenger has won three Premier League titles, five FA Cups and four Charity/Community Shields. However, many claim his biggest achievement was when his “Invincibles” went an entire Premier League season unbeaten in 2003-2004.
The Gunners have failed to win the title since and have a habit of chasing fourth spot every year knowing it will secure Champions League football. Despite spending a club record £42.2 million on Mesut Özil last summer, Wenger faces pressure from fans to spend a lot of money in this transfer window to show how serious he is about challenging for top honors. His reluctance to spend big over the years – for whatever reason – has frustrated the Arsenal faithful who believe the Gunners should be aiming for more than just finishing in the top four every season. Arsenal have been linked with a host of players such as Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema, although no formal offer for him or any other players have been confirmed. Last year they failed with an audacious bid to sign Liverpool striker Luis Suárez.
Although a large percentage of Arsenal fans have said Wenger’s time at the Emirates is up, there are almost as many fans who are of the belief that there is not another manager capable of taking the Gunners further than he has. Wenger has managed to run one of the biggest clubs in England on a shoe string budget while rivals continue to pump money into their teams in each transfer window.
Commentary By Robert Shepherd