Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has revealed his future will be finalised after next week’s FA Cup final.
The 67-year-old has just two matches remaining before his current contract expires but has yet to announce publicly if he will sign fresh terms to remain at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger is approaching 21 years in charge of the Gunners but faces an uphill task to continue a proud record of finishing inside the Premier League top four in all of his full seasons at the helm.
Arsenal go into the final round of league fixtures in fifth, needing to beat Everton at home and hope either Liverpool or Manchester City slip up to allow them to gatecrash the Champions League places.
After that, Wenger will prepare his players for a third FA Cup final in five years when they take on Chelsea at Wembley on May 27.
The Frenchman has been batting away questions over his future for the last few months, but confirmed a meeting held in the days following the final – where he will be looking to win a record eighth FA Cup – will be when his future is discussed.
Asked when the board meeting is scheduled for, Wenger replied: “I think it is after the FA Cup final.”
When pushed on whether that is when a decision on his future will be finalised he said: “Yes.
“You have certainly to know that there are many aspects of a football club which have to be discussed at a board meeting.
“One of them is, of course, what is happening with the manager, the future, the players who have to come in, the renewal of contracts. You don’t miss problems in a board meeting.
“Of course I will be there. At the moment I think we should focus on short term and what’s going on on Sunday and in the cup final.”
A number of vocal Arsenal supporters have been leading protests in recent weeks against Wenger remaining in charge beyond this season.
Banners have been flown over stadiums on planes, marches have taken place outside the Emirates Stadium and Tuesday’s win over Sunderland was boycotted by large swathes of fans.
Their protestations have largely been paid for by crowdfunding websites, and it remains to be seen what sort of reaction Wenger and his players will receive during the usual end of season parade lap on Sunday.
Those supporters will still be unaware of Wenger’s future but he does not believe that will matter ahead of what is a big day for the club, as they will discover whether they are playing Champions League football next year.
'Wenger - Out means out!' banner flying over the bet365 Stadium pic.twitter.com/LY7pUTkvOc— BeanymanSports (@BeanymanSports) May 13, 2017
Asked if the visit of Everton will be his last game in charge of Arsenal at the Emirates, he said: “Of the season…yes.
“I think what is the most important for us is to win the football game we play on Sunday. After that, what happens to me is less important.
“I’m here to serve the club and the best way to do that is to win the next game.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
For much of this season Alexis Sanchez has been the complete antithesis of Arsenal.
While the club has floundered, the Chilean has flourished, scoring 23 goals and remarkably, considering he’s operated for the much of the season as a centre-forward, has added 10 assists in the Premier League as well.
Yet his individual quality has not been enough to offset Arsenal’s dismal campaign and that is a damning indictment of just how poor Arsene Wenger’s side have been this season.
With the Gunners set to miss out on Champions League football next term, despite the 28-year-old hitting top form, there is a strong sense that Sanchez could depart in the summer with just one year left to run on his contract.
Indeed, Arsenal are currently 18 points off league champions Chelsea and Sanchez’s commitment, dynamism and artistry deserves much more than to be cut so far adrift of elite competition.
His exasperation has been obvious all season as his frustrated body language has meant he has not needed a perfect grasp of English to voice his discontent at Arsenal’s exploits.
It’s something which he touched upon after scoring twice to secure another three points in the 2-0 win over Sunderland on Tuesday night.
When asked about his on-pitch frustrations he told SkySports: “Because sometimes when I look at the team we have and the players here… because when it comes to winning the Premier League we often lose or draw against teams at home when we are superior.
“Sometimes the frustration more than anything is about the fact we could be challenging for the Premier League title.
“I’ve always said we have great players here, it’s just about having the mentality of being a great player and going out on to the pitch already thinking about winning.”
Sanchez has consistently been the man to conjure something from nothing and has without doubt operated as the player Arsenal look to for penetration in the final third.
All too often this season they have been one-paced and short of ingenuity but with Sanchez on the ball they have looked a threat with his direct approach putting defences on the back foot.
You see, the former Barcelona attacker has been much more than just a lethal finisher this season – he’s been one of the most complete forwards in Europe.
Ultimately, Sanchez is a game changer, a rare blend of ferociousness and mercurial ability tied into a born winner. Arsenal’s struggles this season will mean that he will no doubt invite offers from some of the best clubs in Europe, especially given he has refused so far to sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium.
So, of the potential suitors how does he match up with their current stars and where would he possibly fit in?
The Ligue 1 giants are thought to be chief among the clubs monitoring Sanchez’s situation and it seems they have already called upon their top stars to begin the courting process.
Edinson Cavani was asked this week about the prospect of Sanchez or Aubameyang joining the Parisian’s in the summer and he told Canal: “If they come, they are welcome. We always hope that new players complete the team with their qualities.”
Sanchez’s ambition to showcase his talent at Europe’s top table runs parallel with PSG’s obsessive desire to win their first Champions League trophy.
A move to Paris would facilitate Sanchez’s desire to live in a desirable major city while also giving PSG’s young core a sprinkling of much-needed experience.
The manner of their exit to Barcelona is a testament to the inexperience of the young squad and Sanchez would be an ideal solution.
Having bought Julian Draxler in January while reaped the rewards of building their attack around Cavani, it would suggest Angel Di Maria would be the man to make way for Sanchez.
The Chilean has operated on the left flank at times this season and in terms of league statistics has 108 successful take-ons to Di Maria’s 34 while he has also created four more chances (76) than the Argentine (72) and laid on three more assists with Sanchez grabbing 10.
Arsenal would of course be unwilling to sell their prized asset to a Premier League rival but they have set a precedent in the past.
In a similar scenario, Robin Van Persie was sold to Manchester United as he entered the final year of his contract and City could be the club to exploit the rift between Sanchez and Arsenal.
Sergio Aguero has had no reassurances over his future at the Etihad Stadium and it seems clear Pep Guardiola will be on the look out for a striker this summer.
Sanchez is a player he knows well having spent a season with the Chilean before he stepped down at Barcelona in 2012.
And the 28-year-old has improved drastically since then, emerging as a complete forward who would fit seamlessly into Guardiola’s fluid system.
He would also represent a cheaper option to comparable forward’s like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang given he will enter the last year of his contract in the summer.
Sanchez has scored five more goals (23) than Aguero (18), registered eight more assists and crucially has created 76 chances to the Argentine’s 28 in the league this season.
His tenacity and work rate off the ball as well as his direct approach and clinical finishing would make him an ideal fit for Pep and City.
Juventus’ €90million outlay for Gonzalo Higuain last summer added to an embarrassment of riches in attack for boss Max Allegri with Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic all at his disposal.
The Old Lady are also perpetually linked with a move for Sanchez so the question therefore is why would they need to sign the Arsenal man?
From a tactical standpoint, Juve switched to a 4-2-3-1 earlier this year with Manzukic and Cuadrado occupying the two wide positions in a three behind Higuain.
While the pair have offered genuine quality in attack and have been more than adept from a defensive point of view, Sanchez is represents and upgrade and the Chile international’s versatility to operate in behind or out wide is a clear attraction for Allegri as is his familiarity with Serie A.
Adjusting to the slower more rigorous nature of Italian football can be a tricky process but Sanchez has already blossomed during a sublime stint with Udinese from 2006-11.
The Bavarian’s are another European superpower who have been noted to have an interest in Sanchez and their desire to sign him is much more pronounced than the clubs mentioned above purely because of the age of Carlo Ancelotti’s squad.
Indeed, Bayern have the oldest side in the Bundesliga this season, according to ESPN, and remarkably fielded their oldest ever team in Champions League history – with an average age of 30.3 – as they were knocked out by Real Madrid.
While wingers Arjen Robben (33) and Franck Ribery (34) continue to perform at the highest level there will be some much needed turnover in the summer with Philipp Lahm (33) and Xabi Alonso (35) both retiring at the end of this season.
A move for Sanchez is an obvious fit. Ribery is replaceable and even though Robben doesn’t seem to be in decline just yet, there have been signs of it.
Sanchez is a proven and versatile talent and even though he is coming into his peak, it provides Bayern enough time to discover younger alternatives.
Some players could be left to sweat after the Football Association voted in favour of introducing retrospective bans for players who dive or feign injury from next season.
From Rivaldo’s theatrical grasp of the wrong part of his anatomy, to Gordon Watson’s ludicrously delayed topple in the Leeds box, the game has seen it all.
Here we pick out some of the more extreme examples of simulation which would be ripe for punishment under the FA’s new rules:
RIVALDO (Brazil, 2002)
The Barcelona star collapsed clutching his face late in his country’s World Cup clash with Turkey in 2002 – despite Turkey’s Hakan Unsal having kicked the ball at his leg while he was waiting to take a corner. FIFA fined a resolutely non-contrite Rivaldo a trifling £5,180, but decided not to suspend him.
He said: “I’m not sorry about anything. Obviously the ball didn’t hit me in the face, but I was still the victim.”
SLAVEN BILIC (Croatia, 1998)
Bilic denied France hero Laurent Blanc the chance to play in his home World Cup final after his dramatic response to a bit of shirt-tugging in their last four clash. Late in the game, Bilic went down holding his face, prompting the Spanish referee to issue Blanc the only red card of his career.
Replays showed contact was dubious. Years later Bilic insisted: “It wasn’t like Mike Tyson, but I was struck. I panicked and collapsed.”
GORDON WATSON (Sheffield Wednesday, 1992)
Leeds were cruising to victory at Hillsborough when Chris Whyte went to sweep the ball away from Watson in the box and the Owls star hesitated, had a long think, then flipped to the ground, winning a penalty from which Wednesday would briefly reduce the deficit.
Watson was held up to ridicule, and admitted much later: “It’s the most disgraceful dive you’ll ever see. It was the fact I took a step before going down. I over-egged it.”
KYLE LAFFERTY (Rangers, 2009)
When Lafferty and Aberdeen’s Charlie Mulgrew squared up on the touchline during their Scottish Premier League clash in 2009, the Rangers man went down as if he had been Glasgow-kissed – not, as replays would clearly show – air-kissed.
Mulgrew was sent off, but such was the resulting furore that Lafferty was fined and reprimanded by his club, forced to issue a fulsome apology, and banned for two matches by the SFA.
SERGIO BUSQUETS (Barcelona, 2010)
Busquets got Inter Milan’s Thiago Motta sent off less than half an hour into their Champions League semi-final clash at the Nou Camp when he feigned injury after a so-called “clash” with the Italian. Replays showed Thiago’s fingers had barely tickled the Barcelona man’s chin.
An incensed Motta railed: “He always does it. I have seen it on TV and he is holding his face and then looking at the referee – it is terrible behaviour.”
*From Press Association