Arsene Wenger in no mood for contract talk ahead of FA Cup final
Questions mount ahead of Wembley date with Wigan as Arsenal attempt to end trophy drought
Arsene Wenger: It is also possible that Wenger is battling to wring every last penny out of the deal. He has always fought for what he can get from his contracts. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA
“Nothing has changed,” spat Arsene Wenger, exasperated and almost affronted by the question. It was the one that he has fielded since the first press conference of the pre-season, in Indonesia on July 12th and it related, of course, to whether he was about to sign that contract.
The Arsenal manager is not the only one for whom the saga has exceeded the boundaries of tedium. He has said on many occasions that he has promised his club of nearly 18 years that he will extend beyond the end of the season, when his terms are due to expire.
There has sometimes been levity to his delivery of the same answer. After the West Bromwich Albion game two weeks ago, he said that he was from “an ancestral period where you didn’t need a pen to commit”. The Wengers are of proud lineage, whose word is their bond.
But, mostly, Wenger has been stroppy when pressed on the issue, particularly before matches, when he tends to be more guarded. He does not have, say, Alex Ferguson’s capacity to glower but you know when he feels that lines have been crossed and he is unhappy. “Yes, of course,” added Wenger, after he was asked whether he remained confident about staying at Arsenal.
Decision on ice
Wenger has still not signed. He will not do so before the FA Cup final against Hull City
and the questions that have built around his dallying have essentially distilled into one. Why is he waiting until after the final?
Wenger also said after the West Brom match that “it [the contract extension] is not linked with the FA Cup at all [but] it was, of course, important to be in the Champions League”. Arsenal had secured a top-four finish when Everton lost to Manchester City on May 3rd and so, for the past two weeks, there has seemingly been no obstacle to Wenger’s signing.
In PR terms, the club know that it might have been an idea to make the announcement before the final, in which Arsenal are such overwhelming favourites that Wenger’s potential gains in victory stand to be outweighed by damage in defeat.
But he has been unmoved. Perhaps, he is just being a stubborn 64-year-old, determined to do things purely when he is good and ready which, in turn, reflects the level of control he enjoys at the club.
It is also possible that Wenger is battling to wring every last penny out of the deal. He has always fought for what he can get from his contracts – maintaining, not unreasonably, that he deserves it – before he fights with everything he has for the club. It could be no coincidence that stories of Monaco’s willingness to make him a massive offer have emerged in the past few weeks.
But what nags away, in the face of the assurances from chief executive Ivan Gazidis and all of Wenger’s rhetoric, is what might happen if the team slipped up against Hull and that section of the support who have already lost faith in Wenger erupted once more.
Anybody could predict the reaction to an Arsenal defeat, which would push the club’s trophy drought into a 10th year; how Wenger and the players would be beaten over the head for failing at the big moment again.
To Wenger, it is already wearying. Is he waiting on the contract in order to gauge the mood after the final?
Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Vermaelen will be assessed before kick-off. England midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain has been out with a groin injury since the league clash with the Tigers on April 20th, while defender Vermaelen missed the season finale at Norwich after having five stitches in his knee.
Paul McShane (ankle), James Chester (hamstring), Robbie Brady (groin) and Sone Aluko (ankle) are all expected to pass fitness tests for Hull but are unlikely to make the Tigers’ starting line-up.