Arsene Wenger seems poised to sign a new contract with Arsenal.
Speaking to ESPN at the start of Arsenal’s summer tour of Asia, Wenger admitted that talks over a new deal with Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis are already underway:
I am committed to staying longer at this club. I’ve already had a chat with Ivan. It went very well, not a problem. The link with PSG is there because I’m French and I know the owners, but if that was the case then I would be there already. I’m not at PSG because my heart is with Arsenal.
Wenger then muddied things a little by adding:
Would my decision depend on how well next season goes? I am like anybody else, of course, it is important to see how well we do. I don’t automatically assume that I will be here.
These statements are contradictory. If talks with Gazidis have already begun then the idea that any new deal will be dependent on Arsenal’s performance in 2013/14 is plainly nonsense.
Gazidis himself has been clear about his desire to retain Wenger. Speaking to Eurosport in June, he said:
We think we have got a fantastic manager. We hope that he wants to do what he is doing for the long term. I believe he does.
Arsenal are committed to Wenger. Now they’re eager to formalise that with a new contract.
In my opinion, they’re being a little hasty.
Arsene Wenger has been a fantastic manager for Arsenal. He has guided the club through a troubling period of austerity with wisdom, integrity and no little skill.
However, that does not necessarily make him the right man to return the Gunners to their former glory.
Before next season, Wenger must first impress the Arsenal fans with a productive summer of transfer activity.
There is a growing fear Wenger’s enforced parsimony may have become an unbreakable habit. Arsenal have boasted of renewed financial power but have thus far failed to land a major name in this transfer window.
If Wenger wants to stay at Arsenal, he needs to show a willingness to embrace a new era wherein spending is not a sin.
Having added to the squad, Wenger must then produce an act of football alchemy to transform Arsenal from also-rans to title-contenders. The Gunners have not won a single trophy since 2005. In that period, they have regularly qualified for the Champions League without sustaining a realistic challenge for the Premier League title.
The fans are tired of celebrating a spot in the top four. Now they crave trophies.
Wenger has shown in the past that he is able to handle bigger budgets and capture silverware. In 2013/14, he must demonstrate that he is capable of doing so again. Should he, he will undoubtedly be the first choice to take Arsenal forward.
However, until Wenger shows he is ready to break the habits of the last eight years, he should not be handed a new deal.
Arsenal need not rush. The ball is firmly in Wenger's court.