WENGER KEEPING SEALED LIPS ON HIS CONTRACT EXTENSION AS MANAGER OF ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger will make Arsenal wait until at least April before deciding whether to extend his contract beyond the summer or walk away from the club he has managed for 20 years.

Wenger’s existing deal expires in May but the 67-year-old is in no hurry to commit himself until a month before it is due to end.

The Frenchman indicated yesterday that he will take stock of his situation at that time and is comfortable leaving it so late. He did not agree to his last contract until the last minute, signing a three-year extension in May 2014 after the season had finished when his tenure then was set to end the following month.

I will judge where I stand in spring and make my decisions then,’ said Wenger, whose side face West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day.

‘And the club is free as well. It’s not because I am here a long time that I have any rights. We are both on the same boat.’

Wenger is the longest-serving manager in English football by a considerable length of time. Paul Tisdale, at Exeter City, is behind him on 10 years. The closest in the Premier League is Eddie Howe, who has been in charge of Bournemouth for four years.

Wenger denied that his delay on whether he increases his own record would impact on Arsenal’s long-term planning, adding: ‘There are plenty of managers who arrived at the end of their contract. It happened to me before. I signed sometimes in March, April for longer contracts. So I don’t think it’s a problem. I worked everywhere I was until the last day of my contract with total commitment. That’s why maybe I can go back everywhere I was, because people respect that.’

Part of Wenger’s decision will hinge around how Arsenal perform in the second half of the season. They were firmly on course to challenge for the title but two defeats against Everton and Manchester City in their last two games have left them now nine points behind leaders Chelsea.

Mesut Ozil was savaged for his performance in the 2-1 defeat to City and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville showed a replay afterwards of the midfielder strolling around while Pep Guardiola’s players passed the ball around.

But Wenger has staunchly defended the player. ‘He is a guy who works much harder than people think and his body language goes a bit against him sometimes.

We are a team who win the ball back high up the pitch very well, which means he and Alexis do their part of the job very well. We had a deficit in winning the ball back in the middle of the pitch at Manchester City.

‘When you do not win the ball back immediately, you suffer after because you have to win it back a little bit deeper.

‘I don’t give him any leeway when the team doesn’t have possession. He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well. His main strength is of course when we have the ball and he suffers more when we don’t have it.

‘At City, he suffered more than others because we didn’t have enough of the ball. Unfortunately, if you want to have the ball, you have to win it back.’

Wenger added: ‘I have a debrief with the players themselves. To be absolutely fair, I did not hear or listen to all of the criticism we got after the game. We have to accept that, we have to live with that. People analyse the game and have their opinions, and I think that’s normal. We have to respond. Mesut Ozil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism.

culled from dailymail

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