Before this season began, it was put forth that if Arsène Wenger had not put pen to paper on a new contract by December 2016, then this would be his last season at Arsenal. Based on that declaration, this writer is forced into a box where money has been put on Wenger ceding the reigns of the club he loves, but is this a smart wager? At the very least, it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
We saw this dance play out before only a couple seasons ago when the signing of a new contract did not occur until after Arsenal won the F.A. Cup. Had Aaron Ramsey not sealed a memorable come from behind victory on that day, it is difficult to think Wenger would have continued and it appears that’s the situation we are currently witnessing now. Wenger wants to know if he’s carried Arsenal as far as he can before he decides on what to do. On one hand, it may be admirable that Wenger wants to wait to see if he is still the right man for the job but on the other hand, it’s a strategy that could blow up in his and the club’s face and the signs are already there.
“I feel very, very happy at Arsenal and have let the club know I would be willing to extend. The fans want me to stay, and now it’s only down to the club. The club knows I am here mainly because of Arsene Wenger, who brought me here and whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want clarity about what the manager is doing.” Mesut Özil
In Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal have two top class players with 18 months left on their respective contracts who from day one have admitted Wenger is the reason they are at the club. Similarly to themselves, they know Arsenal have a contract extension on the table waiting for Wenger’s signature. To think Wenger’s potential departure isn’t a concern for them would be naive. Özil so clearly wants to know what’s going on that he aired his grievance to the public via Kicker.
“He would like to know what happens, of course, on the managerial front. But I don’t think that’s the main part of his decision. It is part of it, but it’s not the only thing. There are many other ingredients in any negotiation, and hopefully we’ll find a conclusion very quickly with him.” Arsene Wenger
It’s eye-opening that Wenger would downplay his future’s role in the futures of Özil and Sanchez. Think about it. Why would either player commit to long-term contracts if they know there’s a possibility the main reason they joined the club could be replaced by someone they would not be keen on working with? Not to say both players will refuse to sign new contracts and force their way out in the summer if Wenger decides it’s time, but clearly it makes sense that they would want to know what he is planning before they commit. Even if he does leave, knowing now and knowing what the club plans to do in regards to replacing him would be beneficial. No one wants to commit their future under one situation and then wake up one day with a David Moyes-level manager as their gaffer.
The latest speculation suggests that the Arsenal hierarchy have identified the March international break as the point by which they hope to have Wenger’s new two year contract rubber stamped. For the sake of Arsenal fans, one hopes this comes to pass because the longer his future remains cloudy the longer the futures of Özil and Sanchez will remain cloudy.