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Wenger vs Gazidis power struggle looming over proposed big summer shake-up

Date Posted,April 5, 2017

Arsene Wenger is locked in a power struggle over his new contract.

Manager Wenger is almost certain to stay at Arsenal and sign a new two-year deal, but there is major concern behind the scenes about his willingness to embrace change.

The Frenchman is under pressure to oversee the biggest revolution of his 21-year reign at the club, but his dismissive remarks this week – calling off-the-field proposals “superficial” – are a worry.

The club’s top brass want to see Wenger shake up his coaching staff and also want a director of football phased in, to go with large-scale work already underway on the medical, science and academy fronts and redevelopment at the training ground.

Arsenal fans fed up with Wenger have been protesting at matches… (Photo: PA)
…and outside the club’s Hertfordshire training ground (Photo: @daniellandau27)

But Wenger has down the years been fiercely loyal to his assistants – such as Boro Primorac and keeper coach Gerry Peyton – and it is becoming a battle of wills.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis is trying to drive through improvement and change which he believes will help push the club forward.

Bringing back a big-name former player – Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira have both been linked – to work alongside Wenger would be a hugely popular move. But whether he would accept that is another matter.

Freddie Ljungberg is another very highly thought-of but is just starting out and has gone to Wolfsburg with former Gunners academy boss Andries Jonker, while there is some regret that Mikel Arteta was allowed to slip away to join Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Arteta (left) was Arsenal captain but joined Man City to get his coaching career started (Photo: Reuters)

Defender and long-time captain Per Mertesacker has all the hallmarks of a future manager further down the line.

There will be big money to spend on players this summer, but Gazidis also wants to see improvements in the scouting and tracking of players.

Arsenal’s transfer-fixer Dick Law is likely to stay for the upcoming window to work on contracts, but there could also be a shake-up there in the long term.

That prompted Gazidis’ “catalyst for change” comment to a meeting with supporters last Sunday, and yet Wenger did not seem to enjoy being asked about it or appear ready to embrace it.

MirrorSport understands a two-year contract has been on the table since shortly after the start of the season but remains unsigned while some final details are thrashed out.

A plane over The Hawthorns with a message directed at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
The anti-Wenger message has taken to the skies… (Photo: Getty)
…and the highways, but it seems likely he will sign a new contract (Photo: PA Wire)

There was a genuine belief two months ago that Wenger might go this summer and the club looked at possible successors but the position has changed dramatically in the past few weeks after they found some middle ground.

The Frenchman is now desperate to stay.

The club have made it clear it will be a “mutual decision” on his future, but the reality is that even if Arsenal do not make the top four — they are fifth, four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, with nine games to go and have a match in hand on the Blues — then he is still set to sign.

He has already been in discussions over potential transfer targets, new contracts for existing players and even pre-season planning .

Arsenal are still chasing a top-four finish after Wednesday’s win over West Ham (Photo: Rex Features)

It all points to Wenger staying and, ultimately, his relationship with majority shareholder Stan Kroenke means he has a direct line to the very top.

Gazidis is pushing for change during the next two years, and if that does not happen then it could leave him deeply frustrated.

But it is becoming clear Wenger is almost certain to stay – the only issue is what the terms and conditions will be.

While there has been talk of big shake-ups in the past and they have never materialised, Arsenal are determined to make sure it does this time.

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