Chief executive Ivan Gazidis made it clear last summer that when Arsene Wenger eventually steps down, the London club wanted to avoid the messy transition at Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson was still very much an influential figure during the start of David Moyes’ reign in 2013.
Wenger’s departure looks much closer after Bayern Munich legend Oliver Kahn claimed the Arsenal players have lost faith in the Frenchman in the wake of the 5-1 Champions League drubbing in Germany on Wednesday.
And a club source confirmed yesterday that should the 67-year-old go, they would want to have some “breathing space” to allow a new manager time to settle without any chance of interference.
Arsene Wenger won't be offered a club role when he steps down as Arsenal boss
Arsene Wenger is under pressure after Arsenal suffered a humiliating defeat to Munich
The stance of the Arsenal board seems to throw out the window the suggestion of bringing in Eddie Howe from Bournemouth with Wenger as a mentor-figure.
Instead it opens the door for one of Europe’s top up-and-coming talents, with Max Allegri of Juventus, Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim and Bundesliga pair Roger Schmidt and Thomas Tuchel top of their hit-list.
That said, it seems unlikely that Wenger’s managerial situation will be resolved until his contract runs out in the summer.
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The Frenchman still enjoys understandable support at a club he has served for more than 20 years.
Either way, the first task this summer will be to rebuild the confidence between the dressing room and the staff, which former goalkeeper Kahn feels has been worn away by too many years without genuine success.
“It looks like the players don’t take the coach seriously anymore,” said Kahn, who added that his former Germany international team-mate Mesut Ozil looked like a passenger in the game against Munich.
“Of course Arsenal have their qualities, especially on the counter-attack, and they have good players like Ozil, but I haven’t seen him,” said Kahn in his role as a pundit for ZDF television. “Maybe you saw him? “It’s sad to see what Ozil is calling a performance, how passive he plays, a player of his genius and qualities – it’s a shame.”
Ozil is also out of contract in the summer and says his own future is tied very closely to Wenger’s. Alexis Sanchez’s current deal also expires then, but he was already jetting out of the country at 8.45am yesterday, on a British Airways flight bound for Venice.
He cut a forlorn figure crouched on the touchline as Munich’s fifth goal went in on Wednesday watching on in disbelief, but the club say he has permission to fly to Italy to visit friends, prompting expectation that he will be rested for Monday night’s FA Cup trip to Sutton United, with Arsenal not playing another fixture after that until they face Liverpool at Anfield on March 4.