Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger could leave in the summer
When Wenger was inspired choice of the last Arsenal board to sit in deliberation of who should run the club, the oldest man in the room was 62-year-old Clive Carr.
As the Frenchman looks into the eyes this afternoon of men who must judge whether, at 67, he is past it, nearly 400 years of experience will peer back at him from the six wise old men in whose hands his fate rests.
Ken Friar, so long a part of the club’s furniture, is 82. Chairman Sir Chips Keswick is 77 and Lord Harris of Peckham is fast approaching his 75th birthday.
The majority shareholder Stan Kroenke is nearly 70, although in fairness, he relies heavily on the positively youthful opinion of his son Josh, a stripling of just 37.
Steering the committee through a long agenda of subjects arising from the first failure to qualify for the Champions League since 1998, will be Ivan Gazidis.
A lawyer from Manchester Grammar School and a self-confessed City fan, this will be the most important football decision of his life.
Arsene Wenger lifts FA Cup as Arsenal players celebrate Sat, May 27, 2017
Arsene Wenger was the centre of attention during the wild Arsenal celebrations
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Arsenal celebrate winning the FA Cup against Chelsea
It is one, with hindsight, that should have been taken in October. He has always spoken publicly and briefed privately in favour of Wenger and at the AGM, Kroenke, a huge fan of the Frenchman, said the board were “very high” on him continuing as manager.
Wenger then chose to dally – perhaps believing he had the luxury of choosing the moment for his anointment. The board should have pushed him.
Because since then there are suggestions that some members of the board have become less keen.
Friar, for instance, could be forgiven for taking a less blinkered view. He has been everything from club secretary to managing director and is described on the official website as “a mainstay of the club for more than 60 years”.
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He remembers Bertie Mee, George Graham and success at the club that wasn’t all just about Wenger.
Sir Chips fashions himself as a “silent but active” member of the board – a potentially dangerous loose cannon as far as Wenger is concerned.
Then there is Lord Harris of Peckham, whose last public pronouncement on the club in 2015 that Wenger could sign anybody in the world was shot down as him having “gone a bit overboard”.
Arsenal pride themselves on having so few leaks, but if the official channels also fall silent this story will start to feel older than any of them.
Indications are from Arsenal that any decision will not be announced until tomorrow at the earliest. It points more clearly than ever to the fact that on balance the plan is to extend Wenger’s contract by an additional two years, but that there will be changes in the managerial structure behind him. That will need to be communicated first to the relevant parties.
Although many used to a 21st century flow of information will just see it as yet more dithering from one of the oldest boards ever to plan the long-term future of a football club.