June 1 – It has been very much a reign of two halves but after signing a new two-year deal, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, the longest serving manager in English top-flight football, is targeting next season’s Premier League title.
“I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement,” said Wenger, who had to endure persistent fan protests during last season, after his future was finally announced following months of speculation.
Arsenal are expected to spend at least £100 million on new players in the upcoming transfer window but that’s roughly what they spent last summer, only to finish fifth and fail to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in Wenger’s 21-year tenure.
“This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful,” Wenger nevertheless told the club website. “We’re committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season.”
Following Wednesday’s official announcement, chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “Our goal is to compete for and win trophies here and in Europe. Everything we do is designed to make that happen and we will be working hard on and off the pitch this summer to improve and make a strong challenge next season.”
Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30% of Arsenal’s shares, has reportedly made a £1 billion bid to take control from American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. “What is now of paramount importance is that he (Wenger) receives the full support of the board and the majority shareholder,” said Usmanov.
Wenger led the Gunners to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his first nine seasons in charge and famously took the team of 2003-4, dubbed ‘The Invincibles’, through an entire season unbeaten. But although they upset Chelsea to win the FA Cup for the seventh under his management last weekend, Arsenal have not won the Premier League in 13 years and in 11 of those seasons have finished 10 or more points adrift of the champions.
Diehard fans remain unconvinced over Wenger’s re-appointment. “People have already started waking up to the empty rhetoric,” Mark King, one of the main protest group’s members, told the London Evening Standard. “The Cup Final was great but nothing has changed.”
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