Arsene Wenger is preparing to leave his post as Arsenal manager when his contract expires in the summer, according to widespread reports.
The Frenchman has been offered a two-year contract extension to remain at the Emirates Stadium, and he is expected to make a decision over his future at the end of the season.
A number of Friday’s newspapers, including the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph, claim that while he was more likely to stay at one point, there is now a ‘growing belief’ that he will leave after 21 years.
The embarrassment of the 5-1 Champions League capitulation against Bayern Munich earlier in the week is believed to have affected Wenger, and it is seen as ‘a watershed moment’ in his reign.
While there is little to no chance of the 67-year-old leaving the club before the end of the season, such is his refusal to ever break a contract, the manager is keenly aware that signing another deal would, in the words of the Mail’s Sami Mokbel, ‘only intensify the ill-feeling from supporters who once idolised him’.
It is claimed that Wenger has become ‘subdued’ during the club’s recent poor run of form. They have lost five of their last 13 games, are ten points behind in the Premier League title race, and Champions League progression is surely beyond them. An FA Cup win – they face non-league Sutton in the next round – could possibly persuade him to stay on if combined with a top-four finish, but it is no longer the most likely outcome.
Unsurprisingly, the Gunners board ‘want a manager in Wenger’s mould if he does leave’. That means Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone is an outsider for the post, considering his ‘fiery temperament’.
Some figures at the Emirates actually believe Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino would be a ‘perfect fit’, but they are aware that chances of such a move are ‘non-existent’.
Thomas Tuchel of Borussia Dortmund and Juventus’ Max Allegri are the leading candidates for the post, as Arsenal face up to the prospect of changing managers for the first time since 1996.