Friday the 13th must have felt like a particularly unlucky date for some Arsenal fans when they awoke to headlines suggesting manager Arsene Wenger could be about to agree a contract extension with the club.
According to the Times (h/t Metro's Sean Kearns), the Frenchman has been offered a further two years to ensure he remains at the Emirates Stadium until 2019. However, even Wenger’s staunchest supporters would agree the timing is terrible.
It’s worth noting that Wenger has been quick to dismiss the story. Speaking at his press conference before the final game of the Premier League season against Aston Villa on Sunday, he decried the report as “false”:
That's completely wrong, and I don't know where this information comes from.
You can treat that as just an invention - one more. It's absolutely false, and I would like the press to check before they give this information out. They could have checked with myself or the club and we would have denied it.
Even if talks were taking place behind the scenes, Wenger knows that admitting as much in the current climate would be problematic. In the past few weeks, there have been supporter-led protests aimed at inspiring change at Arsenal. Retaining their incumbent manager would hardly be a step towards revolution.
The fact the manager is even able to speak on the board’s behalf in this situation is somewhat bizarre. Should he really be privy to his supposed superiors’ intentions?
It’s easy to see why the board might wish to keep Wenger in charge. He consistently delivers qualification for the UEFA Champions League and is prudent enough in his spending to ensure Arsenal’s cash reserves keep building.
They might also deem stability healthy, and it’s widely anticipated that Arsenal will make some significant forays into the transfer market this summer.
However, there is risk involved in giving the manager a huge war chest when he might only be around for a further 12 months. A new man might want to take a different approach, rendering the previous summer’s spending a waste.
Furthermore, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis and company may feel it will be difficult to attract top-quality players with uncertainty hanging over the manager’s position.
That particular fear may be ill-founded. Wenger was in exactly this position in the summer of 2013 when the Gunners shattered their transfer record to secure the signature of Mesut Ozil. It seems star names can be attracted without long-term security in the dugout.
Wenger and the club should hold off on any new contract for now. The atmosphere among the fans is fraught, and this could be what pushes them over the edge into open revolt.
If the club are determined to keep the 66-year-old in charge, they should first do their utmost to dampen discontent by spending big this summer.
Under Wenger, Arsenal have become one of the wealthiest clubs in the world—it is time they started acting like it. A couple of marquee signings would improve the mood around the Emirates Stadium significantly.
A strong start to next season would have a similar effect. There’s nothing like a few wins to settle the restless natives. Arsenal must wait until this disappointing season is consigned to history before contemplating giving the manager a new deal.
There remain fans who will be opposed to any Wenger extension, irrespective of timing. They may well have a point—Arsenal have grown stale, and change could be what’s required for them to ascend to their former height.
However, what’s certain is that this is not the moment to tie Wenger down. The doubts are too many and the dissatisfaction too intense.
For now, Wenger must wait. He has plenty to do if he is to convince the fans he’s the man for the future.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.