The 63-year-old has already held preliminary talks with Emirates Stadium chiefs about extending his 17-year reign at the club beyond the end of this season
By Wayne Veysey
Arsenal will step ahead with plans to tie Arsene Wenger to a contract extension after announcing the appointment of Sir Chips Keswick as the club’s new chairman.
The Londoners wanted to install Sir Chips as the successor of Peter Hill-Wood, who stood down on Friday for health reasons after 31 years in the role, before formalising discussions on a new deal for Wenger.
Sources have told Goal that the Frenchman has already held preliminary talks with Emirates Stadium officials about extending his 17-year reign.
Negotiations will now be stepped up, with the club expected to sit down with Wenger this summer and offer an extension of at least two years to his current agreement, which expires in 2014.
The 63-year-old retains the complete faith of majority owner Stan Kroenke and the Arsenal board, and their endorsement could result in Wenger putting pen to paper before the start of the new season.
Despite his close relationship with Paris Saint-Germain’s wealthy Qatari owners, Wenger wants to remain at Emirates Stadium for personal as well as professional reasons.
Wenger’s family are settled in London, with his teenage daughter hoping to complete her secondary education in the capital, and he believes he can develop a title-challenging team with a British core of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain supplemented by proven foreign stars in the mould of last summer’s key signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski.
As reported by Goal in February, Arsenal still retain complete faith in their manager and wanted him to stay even if he had not guided the club to their 17th consecutive top-four finish on the final day of last season.
Despite completing an eighth consecutive season without winning a trophy, the board remain convinced in the abilities of Wenger and put far greater store in his record of top-four finishes and success in navigating the group stages of the Europe’s flagship competition year after year.
The club’s longest-serving manager is also appreciated by the board for maintaining the club’s elite status either side of the move from Highbury while having a transfer budget that was dwarfed by the club’s rivals.
Wenger’s public stance is that he always honours his contracts and that no firm decision has been taken over his future beyond 2014.
Nevertheless, chief executive Ivan Gazidis dropped hints during two question-and-answer sessions earlier this month that the club wanted their long-running manager to sign a new deal.
There is a growing possibility that he could put pen to paper on a new contract before the start of next season to end speculation about the direction in which the club are heading.
Armed with the biggest kitty of his Arsenal reign, Wenger is expected to smash the £20 million barrier twice this summer as he builds a squad capable of challenging. His A-list targets include Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuain and Stevan Jovetic.
Moves are also in place to sign Swansea City defender Ashley Williams, QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Sochaux right-back Sebastien Corchia.