Is this the beginning of the end for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?
Arsene Wenger appears to be on a collision course with Arsenal chiefs intent on restructuring the club, as the long-running debate over his future as Gunners boss appears to be coming to a head.
Wenger’s contract will expire this summer and despite claims that he has made a decision over his future, the extended delay in making that announcement public is fuelling the suspicion that battle lines have been drawn between the Gunners boss, the club’s chief-executive Ivan Gazidis and chairman Sir Chips Keswick.
Now, for the first time in the ongoing debate over Wenger’s future, there appears to be a genuine prospect of Wenger being ousted from power at Arsenal, after a revealing report from ESPN that suggested the club are putting the Frenchman under pressure to work with a Director of Football and accept changes to the club’s structure and scouting network.
The ESPN article was published hours after Wenger insisted he would not tolerate any moves to dilute his authority at Arsenal, as he offered a bristling response to claims he could lose some of his power at the club if he stays on as manager.
“I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I'm manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front, that's it,” he said.
“I don't know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don't understand and I never did understand what it means.”
Wenger making it clear that he doesn't want a Director of Football at Arsenal. This came as a surprise to me .Its something that we need pic.twitter.com/zOW9ipQ389— Woodwork F.C. (@Cechque) May 9, 2017
The quotes Wenger provided to the daily newspaper reporters were even more emphatic, with these comments suggesting he will not remain as Arsenal manager if the club try to impose any structural changes upon him.
“It is a question of teamwork inside the club,” he stated.
“Some coaches are only interested in managing the team and they are happy with it.
“I am not like that and I cannot change myself now. I can change by trying to get better, but the personality...
“I have 40 years of experience at the top, top level, you know, I think I personally I have a good knowledge of the game.”
Wenger also suggested working alongside a sporting director or director of football would leave him vulnerable to more criticism, some of which would be unwarranted.
“Who do you blame when it does not happen,” he asked.
“When it does not work here, I am blamed. I am blamed for decisions I have not made. It is tough enough to be blamed for decisions you have made.
“It is difficult to imagine that somebody signs a player that the manager does not know. It never happened to me.”
Gazidis and Keswick have made no public comments on Wenger’s future in recent weeks, yet it is increasingly evident that a power struggle is taking place in the corridors of power at Arsenal.
While there may have been a desire to hand Wenger a new contract mid-way through this season, a disastrous run of form has seen Arsenal drop out of the Premier League’s top four and crash out of the Champions League after an embarrassing 10-2 defeat against Bayern Munich.
With the future of a host of star players - including Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez - still uncertain, it may not be Wenger that is delaying confirmation of his new contract.
Instead, the pressure being applied on Wenger to accept outside help if he is to sign the two-year contract that was offered to him earlier this year may be the tool being used by the Arsenal hierarchy to bring down the curtain on Wenger’s reign at Arsenal without being forced to publicly ask him to leave.