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Wenger has said he will play
Wenger has said he will play
Arsène Wenger believes it would be “even better” for Arsenal if they appoint a former player to succeed him as manager at the end of the season. He also provided the clearest indication yet that he did not want to step down, by revealing the timing of the decision was not down to him.
Wenger was in relaxed mood before Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final first leg at home against Atlético Madrid – a tie he feels he has to win in order to avoid an anti-climatic conclusion to his near 22-year tenure.
It promises to be an intriguing contest in which Wenger is set to start with David Ospina in goal; a surprising move, given the manager played Petr Cech in both
legs of the quarter-final against CSKA Moscow.
But, perhaps inevitably, the
focus remained on the fallout from the announcement last Friday that Wenger was set to leave his post and the discussion as to the identity of his successor.
The favourite to take over is Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona manager whose credentials are being pushed by Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s new head of football relations. Sanllehi worked with Enrique at Barcelona and Wenger said he had a “high opinion” of him. But the merits of the former Arsenal captains Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta have also been advanced.
Vieira, the manager of New York City, said on Wednesday that he was flattered to have been linked. “It’s not something which will stop me doing what I am doing at the moment,” he said. “I don’t want this to be perceived that I want to go because I don’t want to leave. But if the question is as simple as: ‘Are you ready to manage any teams in Europe?’ then I would say: ‘Yes. I am ready.’”
Wenger has said he will play no part in the recruitment of the new manager but when asked about Vieira and Arteta – the latter is a coach at Manchester City – it was interesting to hear the 68-year-old endorse the notion of a former player, even if they might be less heralded in managerial terms. Arsenal, famously, made the bold move to appoint him in 1996, when ‘Arsène Who?’ was the question on many people’s lips.
“The need is to make the right decision, even if you have to be bold,” Wenger said. “Is it former people that worked here? That is even better. But there are many players who had qualities. Some of them are in the job. I don’t influence that choice but I will stand behind the decision.”
Sign up for The Fiver, our daily football email.When Wenger and the club made the announcement that they would go their separate ways, the understanding was he had jumped before he was pushed.The club’s hierarchy had become increasingly worried about the team’s poor Premier League performance and the
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chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, offered a telling line last Friday evening. “There’s been a conversation, Arsène has made his decision and now that process [regarding a successor] begins,” Gazidis said.
Wenger was asked on Wednesday why he was quitting when he had another year to run on his contract. “The timing was not really my decision,” he replied. Arsenal later argued that Wenger’s comment related to the release of the announcement rather than the decision. “After reaching agreement
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about my departure, I was happy for the club to decide when to announce,” Wenger later said in a statement. “I wish to make it clear the timing of the announcement was right.”
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