Arse­nal ‘con­fi­dent’ in Wenger, but no new con­tract yet

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

ARSE­NAL hope Arsene Wenger re­mains their man­ager beyond the end of the sea­son, but the Lon­don club said on Oc­to­ber 24 there was no rush to hold fresh con­tract talks.

The 67-year-old re­cently cel­e­brated his 20th an­niver­sary as man­ager of Arse­nal but the French­man’s con­tract is due to ex­pire at the end of this cam­paign.

Arse­nal chair Chips Keswick, ques­tioned about Wenger’s con­trac­tual ar­range­ments dur­ing Arse­nal’s An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing, said, “We all recog­nise the fan­tas­tic con­tri­bu­tion Arsene has made to the club in the last 20 years.

“We are con­fi­dent about his abil­ity to take us for­ward. We will sit down and dis­cuss the fu­ture at the ap­pro­pri­ate time but our fo­cus is on main­tain­ing the cur­rent run and com­pet­ing for tro­phies.”

Wenger – linked to the Eng­land coach­ing job – had lit­tle to say on his po­si­tion, other than to as­sure Arse­nal fans he would not still be in charge in an­other 20 years’ time.

The Gun­ners boss has been on the re­ceiv­ing end of crit­i­cism at pre­vi­ous AGMs, with fans frus­trated by Arse­nal’s fail­ure to win the Pre­mier League since 2004.

But with Arse­nal now level on points with Pre­mier League lead­ers Manch­ester City, Wenger re­ceived a warm re­cep­tion from share­hold­ers on Mon­day.

“Yes, it’s 20 years. I’m sorry!” joked Wenger as he be­gan his re­marks to the AGM. “I would like to apol­o­gise for ev­ery minute I made you suf­fer in these 20 years – but you don’t look too bad for peo­ple who have suf­fered for 20 years.

“I am sorry for the boy who was born 20 years ago and has only known one man­ager. I would like to re­as­sure him that when he is 40 he will know a few more.”

On a more se­ri­ous note, Wenger said Arse­nal were now well-placed to chal­lenge for the ti­tle.

“To­day we are in a much more com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion to fight for the cham­pi­onship than five or six years ago,” he said. “I be­lieve we have a com­pet­i­tive team in a very com­pet­i­tive league.

“I be­lieve the team has the com­mit­ment, to­geth­er­ness, hunger, de­sire and unity and we have a good chance to com­pete for the Pre­mier League.”

– THE Ma­jor League Soccer ca­reers of Di­dier Drogba and Steven Ger­rard could end with­out ei­ther man kick­ing an­other ball as their teams head into nerve-wrack­ing sud­den-death play­off games start­ing to­day.

Two of the big­gest names of the English Pre­mier League’s golden era, Liver­pool icon Ger­rard joined Los An­ge­les Galaxy in 2015 just a few months be­fore Chelsea leg­end Drogba headed to Mon­treal Im­pact.

How­ever, both Ger­rard and Drogba’s sea­sons are hang­ing by a thread as their re­spec­tive teams face knock­out games this week which could end their cam­paigns.

The Galaxy face a one-off game against Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Cen­ter in Car­son to­day, with Ger­rard, on the mend from a re­cent ham­string in­jury, far from cer­tain to make the match­day squad.

Drogba’s Mon­treal team­mates, mean­while, face an awk­ward trip to face DC United in Wash­ing­ton with the Ivo­rian striker strug­gling with a sore back.

Fail­ure of the Galaxy and Mon­treal to ne­go­ti­atate their first-round op­po­nents could in all prob­a­bil­ity spell the end for Ger­rard and Drogba.

Ger­rard, 36, fu­eled spec­u­la­tion about his fu­ture at the week­end with a so­cial me­dia post in­ter­preted in some quar­ters as a farewell mes­sage to Los An­ge­les fans.

“Liv­ing in Los An­ge­les and play­ing for the great Galaxy sup­port­ers has been a priv­i­lege,” Ger­rard wrote. “You have made this place feel like home to me. This city and this club will al­ways hold a spe­cial place in my heart. Thank you.”

It came as reports in Bri­tain said for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Ger­rard had held talks with Liver­pool about re­turn­ing to An­field in a coach­ing role.

Ger­rard, who was in Eng­land ear­lier this month to un­dergo treat­ment on his ham­string, trained separately from his Galaxy team­mates on Oc­to­ber 23 af­ter re­turn­ing to Cal­i­for­nia.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, mean­while, is brac­ing for a tough test against a Salt Lake side his team took four points from in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“I think we played them twice this year, beat them at home and had a tie on the road there,” Arena said. “Al­ways a good team. Ob­vi­ously, a team we’ve seen be­fore in the play­offs. We ex­pect a tough match.”

Drogba, mean­while, faces an ac­ri­mo­nious end to a ca­reer in Mon­treal that has un­rav­elled rapidly af­ter a suc­cess­ful de­but sea­son.

The 38-year-old has scored 21 goals in 32 ap­pear­ances for Mon­treal since mak­ing his de­but for the club in Au­gust 2015.

But Drogba’s first full sea­son in the MLS this year has been marked by ten­sion be­tween the player and his club, with the nadir com­ing on Oc­to­ber 16 when the striker re­fused to be a part of Mon­treal’s match­day squad af­ter be­ing told he would not be in the start­ing line-up.

Mon­treal Pres­i­dent Joey Sa­puto in­sisted the feud be­tween Drogba and the club had been set­tled, though it did not pre­vent MLS from hit­ting the player with a fine last week for the no-show.

Drogba did not play in the team’s fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son game – a 3-0 away de­feat to the New Eng­land Rev­o­lu­tion – and has com­plained of a back prob­lem which pre­vented him from train­ing last week.

Im­pact coach Mauro Biello, who rested sev­eral first-team play­ers from the de­feat to New Eng­land, said on Oc­to­ber 24 Drogba was still com­plain­ing of a sore back, de­scrib­ing the for­ward’s sta­tus as “day to day”. –

Photo: EPA

Di­dier Drogba is ex­pected to re­tire af­ter this sea­son’s play­offs with the Mon­treal Im­pact.

Photo: AFP

Arse­nal’s French man­ager Arsene Wenger ges­tures on the touch­line dur­ing the Oc­to­ber 22 match be­tween Arse­nal and Mid­dles­brough at the Emi­rates Sta­dium in Lon­don.

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