Arsene Wenger may have finally put pen to paper on a new two-year contract at Arsenal yesterday, but if he believes such a move will spell an end to unrest among fans he will have to think again.
Last season the level of discontent among Gunners fans reached heights unseen before during Wenger’s 21-year reign at Arsenal.
There were banners, marches, empty seats at the Emirates and even planes flying over stadia around the country carrying messages demanding the Frenchman leave.
All of them have fallen on deaf ears, though, after a series of meetings this week between Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, the board and Wenger resulted in a two-year extension being signed by the 67-year-old manager.
In the club’s eyes, such a moment will be a line in the sand and they hope it will bring an end to the unrest of last season. Indeed, Wenger yesterday made a specific point of calling upon supporters to now unite behind the team.
“The message to the fans is in aid of the club,” said Wenger. “Let’s be together to support our players, to support the club and all give our absolute best to be at the level that we want to be.
“We can move up to the next level, I’m convinced of that, by having faith in the way we want to play football and by supporting the players we have already.”
However, Wenger and Arsenal will be disappointed to hear that sections of the fan base have not been swayed by the club’s strong finish to the end of last season — which resulted in them winning the FA Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win over Chelsea last Saturday.
Instead, supporters are now ready to turn their anger towards Wenger AND Kroenke — who in their eyes is now just as much to blame for the club’s malaise given the fact he has sanctioned a new deal for the Frenchman.
“I think the situation is there is a lot of happiness about the FA Cup final,” said Mark King, who helped organise protests last season.
“That will last for a while and then most people will begin to realise where we are at based on today’s announcements. Let the dust settle, let the summer go, let’s see what happening — but I firmly believe we will be back.
“I think now actually with Stan, we gave him a bit of a free pass last season because as we said, Wenger picks the teams. Stan releases money and he buys the players. So we couldn’t really blame Kroenke for that.
“But now with Kroenke just basically saying ‘carry on as you are’, I think he has put himself in the firing line alongside Wenger. So I think next season we will be looking at both of them to be fair.”
One way for Arsenal to pacify protests is with success on the pitch and, as Wenger confirmed he would take his time in north London to 23 years, that is exactly what he promised.
And speaking to Arsenal Player in the wake of official confirmation of his deal, the Arsenal manager was asked about his summer plans and admitted there would some squad turnover.
“First of all, we have a very heavy squad at the moment so maybe we might lose some players,” he said.
“We want to keep the strength we have and build on that. We will work very hard to find the additions of top, top quality.
“I believe that our squad is very strong and we will only look for top-class people who can strengthen our team now.
“The basis is there so we need the additions who will make a real difference.”
As for where we might specifically be looking for players, Wenger was not that forthcoming.
“We look at the top, top quality available,” he said. “We have seen in the recent games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United that we are a very strong team. For us it’s very important that we only consider the players who can really make a difference, no matter where it is.”
Kroenke shares Wenger’s aims for the new season and he was passionate yesterday about his desire to win the Premier League. Arsenal have not achieved such a feat since 2004. “Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe,” Kroenke said. “Arsene is the best person to help us make that happen..”
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