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Arsene Wenger under pressure to restore Arsenal to the Champions League next season as manager's position comes under scrutiny again

February 13, 2018 5:04 PM
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Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure to ensure Arsenal qualify for the Champions League next season as they consider an early decision over his future.

The Gunners want to avoid the uncertainty that destabilised their Premier League form last season, partly caused by Wenger's long-running contract saga.

Wenger's position is coming under increasing scrutiny again and there is a feeling behind the scenes that the club need to address the matter before it drags on into next season.

Having eventually signed a two-year deal ahead of this season, Wenger is once again entering the final 12 months of his current contract.

And certain members of the club's hierarchy would prefer his future to be settled ahead of next season to avoid a repeat of the tumultuous 2016-17 campaign in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

There appears to be three options for the Gunners: the Frenchman leaving at the end of the season, confirming he will leave when his current deal expires in the summer of 2019 or handing Wenger yet another contract extension.

Wenger, at the very least, will want to see out his current deal. But Sportsmail understands an exit strategy for Wenger leaving the Emirates Stadium this summer is in place.

The Arsenal manager's hopes of continuing will be strengthened by qualifying for the Champions League next season.

As well as having a negative impact on the pitch, the club are concerned another season outside's Europe's top competition will severely impact their ability to attract lucrative commercial deals.

Arsenal are negotiating a new kit deal which is due to start in the 2019-20 campaign with their current £30million-per-season contract with Puma expiring at the end of next season.

Adidas and Nike both have a firm interest in taking over from Puma as Arsenal's kit supplier.

But Sportsmail understands both firms have shown an apprehension in investing huge money due to the uncertainty over when they will be back in the Champions League.

Arsenal are eight points adrift of the top four with 11 league games left to play meaning it is unlikely that they will qualify for the Champions League domestically.

Wenger side's only other route into Europe's elite would be through winning the Europa League.

And having fielded significantly weakened teams in the competition, the Arsenal manager is planning to prioritise the competition - provided they get past Swedish minnows Ostersunds in the next round - because it represents the most realistic route back into Europe's elite.

Winning the Europa League earns qualification into the Champions League for the following season.

Lifting the Europa League and winning the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City later this month would certainly put Wenger in a strong position with regards to his future.

However, his plan to take the Europa League seriously took a hammer blow on Tuesday after it was confirmed £52million summer signing Alexandre Lacazette would miss up to six weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott all sold in January, Danny Welbeck is Arsenal's only fit senior centre-forward for the clash with Ostersunds.

Significant changes to the administrative set-up - primarily the arrivals of head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and contract chief Huss Fahmy - has resulted in Wenger losing a degree of his power, particularly with transfers.

For now, Wenger has accepted the delegation - but it remains to be seen whether the legendary manager is willing to relinquish further control in order to prolong his stay.


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