Arsenal fear manager Arsene Wenger will walk away

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger (centre) sits in the stands, as he has a touchline ban imposed on him. Photo/AP Photos
Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger (centre) sits in the stands, as he has a touchline ban imposed on him. Photo/AP Photos

Arsenal are growing increasingly anxious that Arsène Wenger could call time on his managerial career at the English Premier League football club at the end of the season.

And that is forcing club officials to start assessing the merits of ­potential successors, including Max Allegri, Thomas Tuchel and Leonardo Jardim.

Wenger, who celebrated 20 years as Arsenal manager last year, again dodged questions about his future ahead of two crucial games for him and the club.

Sources close to the Frenchman were only a fortnight ago convinced he would sign the two-year extension to his $NZ13.9 million-a-year contract that has been on the table for some time.

But, following back-to-back defeats by Watford and Chelsea, the tone has changed dramatically and there are now real doubts over whether Wenger will stay on.

Barring a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, it is now expected Wenger will leave it until the end of the season to make a final decision on his future. That leaves open the very real prospect that Wenger will walk away, if Arsenal finish outside the top four or the voices calling for him to go get louder.

Arsenal face Hull City on Sunday (NZ time) and then Bayern Munich in the first leg of their last-16 tie next Thursday in Germany, with the two results likely to have a ­major bearing on how the rest of the season plays out.

Positive results would give Wenger a huge boost, but any ­­slip-up will leave Arsenal facing an ­uphill battle to finish the campaign on a high note.

Owner Stan Kroenke remains desperate for Wenger to stay for ­another two years, but Arsenal's players and coaching staff have been left in the dark over what will happen.

While no approaches to rival managers have been made, the club are having to seriously weigh up possible replacements.

Allegri, the Juventus manager, is known to be keen on the Arsenal post and refused to distance himself from the job when questioned about it in Italy this week.

Borussia Dortmund's Tuchel has admirers in the corridors of power at the Emirates and could be lured from the German club, while Jardim has done an impressive job at one of Wenger's former clubs, Monaco.

Wenger has asked the Arsenal fans to unite behind the team, using Tottenham Hotspur's united support as an example of a club pulling in the same direction.

Wenger has borne the brunt of the annual grieving by ­Arsenal fans, who were left bereft by defeat by the Chelsea on Sunday that put them 12 points behind the Premier League leaders, and there was one protest board in the away end at Stamford Bridge.

The growing profile of Arsenal Fan TV and its band of dissenters has also highlighted the opposition to the Frenchman extending his contract beyond the summer.

"Our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well," Wenger said. "But I don't feel it is absolutely clear.

"You cannot be a fan up to last Tuesday and not be a fan anymore, and not be behind the team this ­Saturday. It doesn't make sense.

"All the other clubs, everywhere we fight with Man United, Man City, Liverpool, they have big expectations as well and big histories. We are in a fight there, we absolutely have to be united or we have no chance to do it.

"You have Tottenham, everyone is in the fight and everyone is ­behind their team. We have to do exactly the same, even if we had two disappointing results."

He said that Arsenal were not out of the title race yet and that the best preparation for the game at Bayern Munich would be to beat Hull.

"We are in a double fight, because we are in a fight to be in the top four. We have as well to fight like we want to catch Chelsea or you have no fuel.

"You have to refuse to give up."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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