So there we have it – Arsene Wenger will be staying at Arsenal for another two years. Surprised? We can’t really say we are. But what do Gooners want to see from the Frenchman over the next 24 months?
Here’s what we think Wenger needs to do to ensure he (eventually) goes out on a high…
June 2017 – August 2017
The hard work starts now. Step one – tie Alexis Sanchez down to a new deal. Forget focusing on new arrivals just yet, Wenger’s main priority has to be securing a contract extension for his prized asset.
Only then can the Frenchman turn his attention towards new recruits. Defensively, the Gunners have been pretty sound in recent weeks, but that’s not to say they don’t need to bring a new face or two in.
The return of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla (from injury) leaves Arsenal with plenty of options in the middle, which means a new centre-forward – an out-and-out goalscorer – should be brought in, allowing Sanchez to play out wide again.
We saw the 67-year-old experiment with three at the back towards the latter stages of the season just gone, and it worked a treat. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll abandon that formation in the summer – but he should have his side working on a Plan B for when things need mixing up a little.
A solid start is a must for the Gunners, who have won just one of their last seven opening day fixtures. Go out, win big and make a statement in the season’s first game.
September 2017 – December 2017
Those latter two cups shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, they could provide Wenger with a great opportunity to add to his trophy cabinet – just as Manchester United did this year. Of course, that means plenty of rotation, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So Arsenal’s target should be to see the year out while going strong in every competition available to them. It’s a challenge, but it’s achievable. And remember, Wenger has a point to prove.
January 2018 – May 2018
History says these are the worst five months of any Gooner’s year.
So often has it been the case in the past few seasons that Wenger’s men have hit a wall at this point and fallen out of the race for the league title, suffered a shock defeat in the EFL Cup and a hammering in Europe.
Their only saving grace in recent times has been the Emirates FA Cup. But that won’t be enough for fans next season. Not at all.
Supporters won’t be expecting their side to go out and win everything in front of them – but it’s the manner of defeats where they’d like to see an improvement. 10-2 on aggregate against Bayern Munich? Not good enough. 18 points off Premier League winners, Chelsea? Likewise.
That has to change next time out.
June 2018 – August 2018
A lot will depend on where the Gunners finish in the table this time next year, but this is the period where Wenger’s successor will almost certainly be known – certainly internally.
With that in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw plenty of change in personnel in North London in the summer of 2018.
Wenger will still be in charge, but plans will be in place for life after the Frenchman.
September 2018 – May 2018
It’s important Wenger leads the Gunners to a comfortable end to the season, so as to set the squad up nicely for the French boss’ successor.
With any luck for fans, Sanchez will still be around for another year or two and may have tasted more success in the previous campaign. Failing that, he should’ve been joined at the Emirates by a whole host of other talents, who will fancy their chances of going for the title.
This afternoon’s confirmation of Wenger’s extension means he’ll have an opportunity to follow in Sir Alex Ferguson’s footsteps by winning the league in his final season in charge. A big ask, of course, but on paper no current manager in the division knows the league better than the Gunners’ gaffer.
By this point, Wenger will have managed more Premier League games than any other coach in the division’s history. Will he extend his contract further? It’s unlikely, given that he’ll be approaching 70.
So can he bow out of the top-flight in style?
Of course, that would be the perfect end to his reign. But there’s a lot to do between now and then.
We’re not ignoring the fan divide, either.
We’re well aware that Wenger will head into next season with a point to prove to his critics, but the only way he can win that seemingly ever-growing group over is by picking up results.
Plenty want to see the back of him, and will have seen Arsenal’s recent Emirates FA Cup success as the perfect time for the manager to call it a day. That’s not the case though, leaving fans with a decision to make…
Do they continue calling for Wenger’s head, or get behind the team for the next two years?
It’s a tough one, but we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Are you glad he stayed, or do you think he should’ve walked away this weekend? And where do Arsenal go from here?
Have your say in the comments section below!
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