Right now, Arsenal fans are playing a waiting game. When it comes to the future of Arsene Wenger, they’re unlikely to get much clarity until the end of the season. While they’re left to speculate in the dark, the Arsenal supporters must hope Ivan Gazidis and the board will be clued in before long. Wenger has been a tremendous servant to Arsenal, but walking away with next to no notice would be a disservice to the club.
Publicly, Wenger is certainly keeping his cards close to his chest. Speaking in his latest press conference, the Gunners boss told the assembled media:
“Once again, thank you for caring about my future, but that’s not the most important thing. My future is in front of me every time I make a half-turn. What is important for me is that Arsenal Football Club does well, and I dedicate my whole energy to the club doing well.”
His hazy comments have prompted a fresh round of speculation that his time may soon be up, but in truth we’ve heard this sort of thing before only for an extension to be announced a few months later. It’s entirely possible that Wenger still intends to stay, but doesn’t want to come out and say as much at a time when he knows it would be incendiary.
However, every time Wenger’s contract runs down the likelihood of him calling it a day seems to increase. It’s not just his age—after 20 years with one man at the helm, there is appetite for change at Arsenal. The slightest set-back can lead to outpourings of frustration from the fans. After two decades, patience has worn dangerously thin.
Wenger’s patience might be tested in the coming months too. If fan dissent grows to new levels, it could push him to step away from the spotlight. The feeling around the club is that Wenger will want to gauge the mood at the end of the season before reaching a final verdict.
It will, ultimately, be his decision. There’s no great desire for a new man among the board. In the volatile world of Premier League football, Wenger is about as close to a sure thing as you can get.
When it comes to consistently ensuring Arsenal are in the Champions League, Wenger has never let his supposed superiors down. However, it would be leaving them in the lurch if he decided to depart without giving them due notice.
Wenger is probably right that making such a decision public would create an unnecessary and unhelpful distraction, but he will also be acutely aware that replacing him is not a job Arsenal will relish. His influence at the club is extraordinary, and his exit is likely to prompt a complete overhaul of the football side of the club. That’s the kind of transition that takes time to plan. Arsenal need notice if they’re to have everything in place.
Surely they’ll get it. Wenger has been part-coach part-custodian for the last 20 years. He wouldn’t want to see his legacy tarnished by a turbulent departure. The transition of power, whenever it comes, needs to be as smooth as possible. We’re already into February—if Wenger is to manage his last match as Arsenal boss in May, Arsenal need to know sooner rather than later.
Wenger’s reign has been characterised by selflessness—by putting the club first. His final altruistic act could well be to ensure he informs the club of his decision to leave early enough that they have time to plan for a successor. As soon as Wenger’s plans are concrete, Arsenal must be made aware.