After Sunday’s limp defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, word out of N5 – communicated via the mainstream press – is that Arsene Wenger’s future will likely be reviewed at the end of the season. From the Emirates corridors of power came a list of possible managerial replacements, ranging from the plausible to the worrying.
True or not, it feels like change is afoot.
Adrift in the league and unable to win domestic silverware, our only chance of redemption is the Europa League – an opportunity to fill the trophy cabinet with European booty and a backdoor route into the Champions League. You can’t write Arsene off just yet, that could still happen, but when questioned about his future in today’s press conference, he struck an isolated and somewhat desperate figure.
First, he was quizzed as to whether he’ll still be in the job he’s held for 21 years when the new campaign kicks off in August. The boss went off on all manner of tangents without getting to the nub of the issue…
Have you been told whether your position will be reviewed at the end of the season?
My position is my position, honestly, that’s the last worry I have at the moment. My worry is to focus on getting the team ready for tomorrow’s game.
But are you aware that there is a review at the end of the season?
I just told you of what is the answer of my way of thinking, it’s the next game. We are in that kind of situation where you want to focus on the next game. I don’t ask you whether your position is reviewed at the end of the season.
No, but I am asking you.
That’s why I tell you, what have I say to that. My job is to focus on performing. My job is to perform. Other people is to judge me. It’s not me to evaluate that.
For clarity though, are you expecting to remain in charge next season?
I just gave you the answer, you know. If you need clarity, I can repeat exactly the same answer.
You talked about the next game [gets cut off]…
Exactly, that’s the clarity. Does it stop you to sleep that my position is uncertain? Or would not be certain? Or is certain? No. So what is interesting in football is the performance in football. It’s the game you’ll see on Thursday night, that’s important. All the rest makes maybe headlines, but it’s not really interesting.
But can you accept that if you don’t say it now, it leaves the door open? Why not just came out and say you will be in charge next season, as per your contract?
Look, I’m just amazed that I have just to answer things that are exactly the same. I’m here for 21 years, I turned the whole world down to respect my contracts. So I’m still amazed that I still have to answer these questions.
The subject of Wenger’s future was brought up twice more. Here’s how Wenger responded to a novel line of questioning.
You’ve told us many times that people should improve in their jobs. Realistically, I should be better at my job in five years time than I am now. I don’t question that, do you think you’re a better…[gets cut off]
That is for me, that is for you also.
Do you think you’re a better manager now than you were five years ago, ten years ago?
How do you judge that? Only by results or by the quality of work? The problem of a manager is to take the best out of a team. How can you rate that? How can you evaluate that? The only thing I can tell you is that I try to be a better manager than I was five years ago. I put the effort in to be a better manager than I was five years ago. After that, you can say to me you don’t agree and I can understand that. But the effort and the commitment and the heart…[tails off].
The Evening Standard’s James Olley, often the last to go in the press conference, then pushed again.
I know you’ve talked about your future already, but does what you do next season depend on qualifying for the Champions League?
I don’t want to come out always on that, I answered that question already.
I don’t know whether you have, just on that specific point…
I answered the question there [looks in direction of journalists who asked earlier questions].
But about qualifying for the top four or getting into the Champions League?
Our target is to get into the top four, of course.
Are you under pressure to do so, if you don’t?
What I want is for us to focus in a united way and to respond tomorrow with a good game, to win the game.
So, we’re into a situation not dissimilar from last season when the manager’s future becomes the prime focus of all the media engagements. We could desperately do with a few good results to calm things down but it’s hard to be confident that tomorrow night is a game which will start that road to recovery.