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Arsenal reportedly have an “exit strategy” in place that will see Arsene Wenger’s tenure as manager brought to an end in the summer if the Gunners miss out on UEFA Champions League qualification.
According to the Daily Mail‘s Sami Mokbel, Wenger’s contract expires at the end of next season, but Arsenal are keen to avoid a repeat of the uncertainty over his future that plagued the team last year.
Some of the powers that be at the Emirates Stadium want the situation resolved one way or another this summer, whether it be Wenger’s departure, a new deal or definitive confirmation he will see out his contract until 2019 and then leave.
It seems reaching the Champions League—either by finishing in the Premier League’s top four or winning the UEFA Europa League—will be the overriding concern when the decision is made, as the club are worried their absence from Europe’s elite competition for another year will hamper their income from commercial deals.
Mokbel reported kit manufacturers Nike and Adidas “both have a firm interest” in replacing Puma when their deal with Arsenal expires next year.
Puma’s deal is worth £30 million per season to the Gunners, but Nike and Adidas are reluctant to put in “huge money” amid the ongoing concern over Champions League qualification.
Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four took a serious blow on Saturday as they lost 1-0 to rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are only one place above them in fifth but seven points clear.
As the Mirror‘s John Cross noted, the scoreline did not accurately reflect the play:
John Cross @johncrossmirror
Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0. That was one of the biggest 1-0 thrashings I’ve ever seen.
ESPN FC’s Mattias Karen held Wenger responsible:
Mattias Karén @MattiasKaren
Pretty clear Wenger got his tactics wrong today. Had said the best way to defend was to keep the ball, but went for a defensive system where his two best playmakers were completely ineffective and record signing Aubameyang had absolutely no service to work with. #totars
The Frenchman has come under increasing pressure from the Emirates faithful after overseeing a decline at the club over the last decade or so, with no Premier League titles since 2004 and no hint of European success since they reached the Champions League final in 2006.
Despite winning three FA Cups since 2014, the Gunners have stopped challenging for the honours that match their stature, per The Independent’s Miguel Delaney:
Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney
@RorySmith because – for better or worse – the only current currency in the game for clubs of that level is leagues and Champions Leagues.
Wenger could previously at least be relied upon to deliver Champions League qualification, but after years of threatening to, the team finally failed to finish in the top four last season, and they now have a mountain to climb to get back in.
The coach should probably move on regardless of how Arsenal’s season finishes, but it’s unlikely he’ll do so if he does manage to deliver Champions League football.
If he doesn’t, the Gunners should be prepared to be ruthless to maximise their chances of rejoining Europe’s elite the following year.