Crunch time for Wegner as Arsenal boss eyes title bid to placate angry fans

Arsenal will be watched closely by many this season - but the scrutiny on their manager Arsene Wenger will be far greater.

The 67-year-old survived calls for him to leave last year which escalated to protest marches, boycotts and online campaigns.

The Gunners had started the season well, but tailed off badly, crashing out of the Champions League with a record 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich and finishing fifth in the Premier League.

A memorable FA Cup final success over champions Chelsea helped quash some of the uprising, but there were still plenty of Arsenal fans unhappy when it was announced Wenger had penned a new two-year deal.

The Frenchman heads into the Premier League campaign as the competition's all-time most experienced manager, but he needs to deliver the sort of results not seen since Arsenal's last title triumph in 2004.

Money has been spent.

The club-record fee shelled out on striker Alexandre Lacazette shows Wenger, and the board which backed him, mean business.

Wenger has also stuck to his guns over the future of the talismanic Alexis Sanchez, insisting the Chile forward will not be sold, despite his contract expiring in 2018.

The spotlight will be firmly on Wenger when his side open the new season at home to Leicester and he, as chief executive Ivan Gazidis said he must when the manager's new contract was signed, is targeting success across the board.

"The Premier League today is highly competitive, there are six or seven teams who can win trophies and every single trophy is very difficult to win," he told arsenal.com.

"We want to fight for the Premier League, we want to fight again for the FA Cup and we play in the Europa League and we want to win that. We have to prepare well to do that.

"We finished last season well, we won 10 of the last 11 games and we want to continue that and start in a very strong way.

"I am not on a personal trip. I have the luck to make a very long career in my job and I am completely committed to doing well for Arsenal."

Wenger tinkered with his formation during the strong finish to last season.

He has continued to play with three defenders during pre-season, with free transfer signing Sead Kolasinac integrating well both as a centre-back and a wing-back option.

Deals for the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar have either faltered, stalled or are dead in the water, but more signings are expected.

Wenger knows a good start is a must to prevent a recurrence of the 'Wenger Out' movement that plagued part of last year and, if he can get that, he - and Arsenal - may yet return to the top of the class.

AP


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