Arsenal board rubber-stamps new deal for Arsene Wenger but are changes in the offing?

Though there had been some late doubts about Arsene Wenger’s desire to extend his stay in north London, they were well and truly dispelled on Tuesday when the news broke that the Frenchman had signed a two-year deal to stay at Arsenal.

It was no secret that the contract had been on the table for months, if not longer, and the only surprise is that it took so long to get the terms agreed and the news announced.

Frankly, I think Arsene himself expected to have had the contract signed as far back as March, with a late case of boardroom jitters seemingly the only factor preventing matters being wrapped up sooner.

In the end, all it took was a brief rendezvous between the 67-year-old and majority owner Stan Kroenke on Monday and, less than 24 hours later, the news was announced to the board, who rubber-stamped it, and it was leaked to the media scarcely an hour or so later. Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Over the last few months, as the rumour became a possibility, and the possibility became a likelihood, the controversy surrounding the new deal has lessened somewhat, as fans found they had no choice but to accept it.

Protests continued and banners were brought out but, in the end, I think the majority of fans were resigned to the fact that this new deal was going to happen, for better or for worse.

There will be no escaping the fact, however, that the news will anger and upset a fairly significant portion of the fanbase, who have set themselves in opposition to the manager for most of the season and, in some cases, far beyond that.

For those fans, the bitterness and resentment accrued over a period of weeks and months will fester and the divisions will remain as the man they hoped to say farewell to this summer remains very much at the helm.

For most other fans, and I include myself among that number, there was and, indeed, still is a feeling that change was needed in the post-season, one way or another. While the mood in the wake of the FA Cup win is jubilant, nostalgic, and forgiving, when that feeling fades, there will be bemusement that, in all likelihood, we will be starting again next season down the path we have trodden a number of times before.

There may yet be some significant structural change at administrative or board level this summer – that remains to be seen – but in terms of the manager and the owner, it is business as usual at Arsenal and that is, in all honesty, not great.

Of course, that is not to say that we all won’t continue to get behind the team and back the club to the hilt, but it doesn’t mean that the problems which came so memorably to the surface this season will disappear thanks to some summer sun and the reflected glory of a third FA Cup in four years.

Not even a summer of blockbuster announcements will apply more than a plaster to the deep wounds of discontent among the faithful.

While Arsene has undoubtedly earned himself a little more forbearance with an impressive against-the-odds win over the Premier League champions, it won’t take long for the boo boys to come out if things start heading south.

The Frenchman really will have to prove himself in a way he probably hasn’t had to do since he arrived on the scene more than 20 years ago.

The club cannot afford to waft around the periphery of a major title next season, they simply have to challenge, and retain that challenge deep into May. Falling short in March will simply not do this time around, and perhaps that is reflect in the relatively short extension to Arsene’s contract.

Though Ivan Gazidis’s vow that the views of fans would be taken onboard when the decision over Arsene’s contract was made, it is pretty clear that it hasn’t been in its strictest sense, but maybe the two years, instead of something much longer, is acknowledgement at least that there remains a level of discontent.

What Arsene says in his official interview – expected to be released today – will be of great interest, as well any subsequent announcement as to structural change. Quite how far that will go is anyone’s guess so it is a case of ‘watch this space’ until more is made clear.ENGR

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