London – Arsene Wenger will be assured he is the man to revive Arsenal’s fortunes at a board meeting with the club’s American owner Stan Kroenke on Thursday.
The club have confirmed the manager will meet Kroenke, who arrived in London to watch Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, after training. Arsenal’s only remaining ambitions this season are to avoid a humiliating second-leg defeat in Munich on March 13 and to secure a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League. The Gunners, who are fifth, face Aston Villa at the Emirates on Saturday in a potentially explosive clash as anger grows among supporters.
Wenger, under pressure after eight years without a trophy, is preparing to make sweeping changes to the squad in the summer. But despite fan discontent he is under no threat from the board and his contract, which runs to 2014, is expected to be fulfilled by both sides. Wenger was shocked by the gulf in class between his side and Bayern on Tuesday, but will be told there is significant money to spend this summer.
Failure to finish in the top four could affect his plans and there is a back-up plan if they miss out for the first time since Wenger joined in 1996. Arsenal have £150million in hand at the bank and that will be swelled when the £150m, five-year deal with kit sponsor Emirates begins this summer.
The Gunners have also been in a period of exclusivity in negotiations over a new contract with kit manufacturer Nike, but adidas have emerged as serious competition. Although the figures for a new deal are being kept secret, the funds will be available for Wenger.
The Arsenal boss has targeted Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic, Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, Borussia Dortmund attacker Mario Gotze and midfielders Victor Wanyama of Celtic and Toulouse’s Etienne Capoue.
Wenger will speak with chief scout Steve Rowley and Arsenal’s other scouts about the summer plans. It is understood they are working on identifying alternatives, knowing the budget could be cut.
It is also unlikely Wenger’s top targets would be willing to join without the lure of Champions League football. But the Frenchman retains the staunch backing of the board and players after a week in which they also lost to Blackburn in the FA Cup. Skipper Thomas Vermaelen said: “I am shocked people are questioning the manager. Everyone in football looks too short term. It doesn’t mean that because it’s not going well at the moment we don’t stand behind him. He is the right man and we are behind him. We have to show it on the pitch as well.”
Theo Walcott agreed, saying: “We’ve got the best man in the job to get our heads back to where they should be.”
Meanwhile, Bacary Sagna’s advisers are exploring a move to Paris St-Germain. The France defender has privately conceded his Arsenal career is likely to end this summer after rejecting a year’s contract extension. Wenger has asked his scouts to find right-back targets to replace him. – Daily Mail