Back in June, Arsene Wenger admitted that his uncertain contract situation may have cost Arsenal a top four finish last season, but a year later we could be about to experience it all over again.
After signing a two-year contract extension at the end of last season, Wenger conceded that, contrary to what he had previously insisted, the uncertainty surrounding his future could have cost Arsenal their top four finish.
“I would say [my contract situation] had an impact because a lack of clarity has an impact on the group,” he said.
“It’s not, ‘is it me or not me,’ but not to know do I go or do I stay… The uncertainty creates a problem.
“I must say in hindsight, today looking back at the season, my situation had an impact. I don’t know how big it was but it had an impact because of the lack of clarity.”
What’s concerning is that it looks as if we could be heading in the same direction this term.
What does the boss plan to do differently to prevent groundhog day?
Wenger still has 18 months left on his current deal with Arsenal.
However, for the first time ever, fans have begun to question whether the Frenchman will actually see out the final year of his contract.
The 67-year-old has always honoured his contracts in north London. However, Arsenal’s backroom shuffle, which has included the appointment of Borussia Dortmund’s former chief scout Sven Mislintat and Barcelona’s ex-director of football Raul Sanllehi, suggests the Gunners are indeed preparing for life after Wenger.
What’s more, Wenger admitted upon signing his extension that he did almost leave at the end of last season for ‘personal reasons’.
Therefore, he might be closer to the exit than we think.
“Yes I hesitated about signing a new contract for personal reasons,” he said in September.
“I have been at Arsenal for 20 years and I ask myself all the time if I should continue to run the club. And also because we struggled a lot last season. Coaching a different club would be possible.”
When asked who, he replied: “There have been contacts with PSG.”
There haven’t been any strong rumours regarding Wenger’s successor.
There was a report from the Telegraph linking Mikel Arteta and they tend to be quite reliable when it comes to Arsenal gossip.
However, most still don’t see this happening. At least not until the former Gunner, who’s currently an assistant coach at Manchester City, has picked up some more experience.
Leonardo Jardim, Diego Simeone, Patrick Vieira, Thomas Tuchel, Brendan Rodgers, Eddie Howe, Massimilian Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti and even Sean Dyche have all been mentioned as Wenger’s potential replacements. However, there’s been nothing solid. And certainly nothing for Gooners to get excited about.
This means that, with Arsenal still failing to produce the kind of performances that you would expect from a top four team, we’re still unsure what the future holds. As are the players.
And, as Wenger previously said, this is bound to have a negative impact.
Wenger could finally call it a day at the end of the season but who would take over?
Would Steve Bould just step up?
Or is there some massive plan in place that none of us know about?
Uncertainty has taken its toll on the fans and players. Why not try honesty? A little transparency about what the boss plans to do to dig us out of this pit we’ve been tumbling down for the guts of a decade would go a long way to repairing fan relations.
Many fans are sick of the media-trained, robotic answers Wenger gives these days. Perhaps if he opens up regarding whether he’s staying, going or admits he is unsure about what he wants to do, Gooners would cut him some slack.
As it stands, we look set for another finish outside the top four and, since Wenger admitted the uncertainty surrounding his future had a negative impact last term, will 18/19 just be another rerun of 16/17 with relentless focus on the manager’s contract?
That looks very likely, and it is, at the very best, negligent from the club to allow things to get to that point for a second time in three seasons.