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Arsene Wenger ordered to accept changes to stay at Arsenal

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Wenger locked in talks over reforms to the Arsenal set-up
Wenger locked in talks over reforms to the Arsenal set-up

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been told he must accept a radical overhaul of his backroom staff and the structure of the club if he wants to remain in charge for another two years.

The Sunday World has understands that the delay in confirming the future as Arsenal boss has been due to an internal power battle at Arsenal aimed at loosening the vice-like control Wenger has built up in his two decades at the helm of the club.

After Wenger has persistently refused to confirm whether he will remain as the club’s manager beyond this season after he admitted ‘everything has not been sorted out yet’, we can now reveal the discussions that are unfolding behind the scenes at Arsenal:

Arsenal chiefs have told Wenger that they want to revamp the club’s scouting set-up and have a new department that is not controlled by the first team manager.

They are looking at the possibility of hiring a Director of Football to take over some of the duties Wenger has assumed since the departure of David Dein from that role at Arsenal a decade ago.

The Arsenal boss has held talks over changes to his coaching staff, with club officials keen to have more influence over a manager who insists on making all key decisions on his own.

Club officials appreciate the need to make some statement signings this summer to quell fan unrest in a summer that is likely to see the departures of star men Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

No other manager operating at a top club has the kind of influence Wenger commands at Arsenal, as he has a central role in contract negotiations with agents and also is a key voice in overseeing the club’s annual budget.

Now Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick and chief executive Ivan Gazidis (below) have embarked on a project tagged ‘a catalyst for change’, as they look to structure a future for a club that has becoming dangerously dependent on one man.

Wenger made it clear to Arsenal officials in January that he intended to continue as the club’s manager and a new two-year contract offer was duly presented to him.

Yet the alarming slump in the team’s fortunes - headlined by a 10-2 Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich- and rising discontent among the club’s supporters has inspired Keswick and Gazidis to bring forward their restructuring of the club.

Despite concerns over a faltering first team that appears to have lost their way, all involved at Arsenal are determined to forge a new arrangement that will pave the way for a transitional period overseen by 67-year-old Wenger.

Appreciating the negative sentiments that have built up towards Wenger, Arsenal have been part of PR campaign designed to pave the way for the final installment of the Wenger era at Arsenal.

Former players Robert Pires, Jens Lehmann and Sol Campbell have been asked to speak out on behalf of Wenger, reminding supporters of the glory days the club’s most successful manager has inspired.

Leaks hinting a radical change in transfer policy and a huge summer spending spree have also been in evidence, all at a time when the fine details of Wenger’s new relationship with the club is being discussed.

Last Wednesday’s 3-0 win against West Ham provided welcome relief for Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy, who were shocked by the alarmingly flat atmosphere generated at Emirates Stadium during last Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Manchester City.

Wenger may still be one big defeat away from feeling the club’s supporters are turning against him once and for all, but former Arsenal striker Niall Quinn has told the Sunday World that the longest serving manager in English football should not be written off yet.

“There is a shadow over the club right now and Arsene is under serious pressure. It’s restricting the team and the situation needs to be resolved,” Sky Sports pundit Quinn told us in an exclusive interview.

“I am an Arsene Wenger fan and even if the crowd are now split and a certain section are adamant he must go, I’m not so certain.

“What’s clear is that Arsenal need to end the speculation over the manager’s future and even if we are told Arsene will have the final stay on whether he stays or goes, the board have to be involved in some way in that decision.

“They have not had to do this kind of thing for 21 years at Arsenal and suddenly they are like any other club trying to make the right decision over the future of a manager.

“The fans need to be assured that Arsenal and whoever their manager is going to be have the ambition to challenge for the title and you would be surprised how quickly this can turn around.

“It’s tricky for Arsene at the moment. It’s almost like he is standing in quicksand and everything is going against him, but Arsenal are still in a good position to finish in the top four and that would be consolation for a disappointing season.”

Quinn believes the rise of Tottenham under their manager Mauricio Pochettino is adding to Wenger’s woes, with Arsenal’s supporters struggling to comprehend the reality that their local rivals have now moved past them.

“They could put up with Chelsea throwing loads of money at it and winning titles and the same with Manchester City,” adds Quinn.

“What they can’t put up with is the reality that Tottenham are so far ahead of them in the Premier League and it’s not helping Wenger’s position.

“This man has given so much to Arsenal and deserves to be remembered as a great manager, so hopefully the club can find a way to restructure and move forward, even if Wenger remains as manager.

“I hope he stays, I really do, but the gloom that is hovering over the club right now needs to lift and everyone involved has to decide whether Arsene is the man who can do that.”

Quinn’s voice of reason will be welcomed in an increasingly hostile debate over Wenger’s future and while the club accepts the time for change has come, they also appreciate that the radical overhaul required at Arsenal may be more successful if Wenger remains in place for now.

Victory against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night would move Arsenal a step closer to another top four finish in the Premier League.

Yet supporters will expect and demand more from the opening day of next season, especially if Wenger is still calling most of the shots.

Sky Sports is the best place to see the Premier League run-in, with Manchester United v Chelsea and the last North London Derby between Tottenham and Arsenal at White Hart Lane live and exclusive this month.