LONDON: Stan Kroenke rarely attends Arsenal matches. From the point of view of Arsene Wenger, the Gunners’ owner could not have chosen a better occasion on which to jet in than last Saturday’s FA Cup Final.
Wenger’s status and strategy, as manager, appeared to be vindicated by the manner of the 2-1 victory over Chelsea which brought a club record 13th FA Cup win and a managerial record seventh for Wenger.
Later Wenger and Kroenke agreed on a two-year contract extension to be ratified by the rest of the board.
The failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997-78 was a nasty shock for everyone but might work to the advantage of both Wenger and the club if its forces them to confront the need for serious spending in the transfer market.
Wenger has insisted that he needed two more quality signings to convert his present squad into Premier champions for the first time since 2004.
However that also implied keeping the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
This strategy has been undermined already. Both players will be out of contract next year. The difference is that Sanchez wants to go now – Bayern, Chelsea and Juventus all in the queue – while Ozil is understood to be ready to run his contract down next season if necessary.
Impatience for change is also growing in the administration. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis is pushing for structural changes which would see the arrival of a director of football.
Wenger has opposed the development which would, he believes, reduce his wide-ranging control over football issues. However even he knows he cannot go on for ever and, in the wider interests of the club, a strategy must be developed for the future
This could open the way for a compromise, approved by Wenger, of an ‘operations director’. One possible contender would be Marc Overmars, who holds a similar role at Ajax but whose Arsenal history means he understands the club.
Wenger may also face pressure to overhaul his backroom team including long-servings aides such as assistant Boro Primorac, first-team coach Steve Bold, goalkeeping trainer Gerry Peyton and fitness specialist Tony Colbert.
In the wake of Saturday’s Wembley triumph all the players, publicly, offered praise, gratitude and support for Wenger. The stance of Sanchez and Ozil suggests not all think the same, in private.
In GERMANY Borussia Dortmund have sacked coach Thomas Tuchel despite having won the cup at the weekend while, in ITALY, Luciano Spalletti has quit second-placed Roma and is expected to take over at troubled Internazionale.
** Leicester City forward Riyad Mahrez, a key member of last year’s Premier League title-winning team, has said he wants to leave the club this summer.