Frenchman will enter a third decade at Arsenal and be given £100m transfer kitty after agreeing a deal until 2017 worth £7.5 million a year
Worth £7.5 million a year, the contract had been offered to Wenger regardless of whether Arsenal won the FA Cup but the 64-year-old has now pledged to follow up his verbal agreement by putting pen to paper before he travels to the World Cup. A formal announcement is likely this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday.
Arsenal’s dramatic 3-2 win against Hull City on Saturday was a record-equalling fifth FA Cup triumph for Wenger but, most significantly, was also the club’s first trophy since they moved from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium. Asked if he would sign a new contract before the World Cup, Wenger said: “Yes, because I go to Brazil on June 10.”
The timeframe of the deal is especially intriguing. Although three years has been Wenger’s usual length of contract – and that offer has been on the table since the autumn – he has never previously allowed an existing deal to completely run down. There was a theory that Wenger would leave had he not won the FA Cup — something he denies — or would at least have preferred either a one-year rolling deal or a shorter two-year arrangement.
Wenger will turn 65 later this year, meaning he will be 67 by the time this next contract expires. Having joined Arsenal in 1996, it would also take his total tenure at the club beyond 20 years. Wenger’s decision reflects his belief that the core of this current squad is again ready to seriously compete to win the Premier League or Champions League.
Unlike previous transfer windows, the majority of the squad are on long-term contracts and Wenger will also be entrusted this summer with a £100 million transfer budget. The club’s increased spending power is largely a consequence of new commercial deals with kit manufacturer Puma and sponsors Emirates.
A striker and a central midfielder are the immediate priorities. In the holding midfield position, Wenger has made enquiries over Lars Bender and Javi Martinez while vice-captain Mikel Arteta, who has fulfilled that role over the past three years, will have talks about his future this summer. His contract expires in 2015 and he would like more than the usual one-year extension for outfield players over the age of 30.
In attack, Wenger is monitoring the respective situations of Karim Benzema and Mario Mandzukic at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, although has also been impressed by the progress at Swansea of Wilfried Bony.
Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski, however, are now likely to leave after starting Saturday’s FA Cup final but refusing the offer of new contracts. Arsenal and Sagna will hold further talks this week but, amid interest from both Manchester City and Manchester United, the club’s most experienced current player is likely to depart.
Arsenal have offered Sagna a new three-year deal worth around £90,000-a-week but City are expected to push their offer beyond £100,000. With Sagna now aged 31, Arsenal are not willing to go any higher and hope that the experience of Saturday’s victory against Hull might still persuade him to stay. Sagna’s versatility makes him especially valuable, with Wenger having predicted that he will eventually finish his career at centre-back. Wenger will wait for Sagna before deciding on his transfer strategy, with Southampton’s Calum Chambers regarded as a potential long-term replacement. Toulouse right-back Serge Aurier is another option.
Sagna was in tears on Saturday as he paid tribute to Wenger. “All these years he has been heavily criticised and … we struggled for quite a few years,” he said. “I do not know if it was my last game. We have not found an agreement.”
Fabianski, who was only told on Saturday morning that he would start in goal ahead of Wojciech Szczesny, was more explicit about the probability of leaving as he seeks regular first-team football. “I deserved to play in the final,” he said. “Probably that was my final game for Arsenal and I am really proud of that final game, I’m really proud that probably my career ends up with a trophy.
“It’s difficult, for sure, but I think my decision is made purely on playing regularly each week. I really love this club. It’s just a sporting decision.” Captain Thomas Vermaelen, who lifted the trophy despite being a substitute, also said that he must wait before deciding his future.
“Sometimes it is not always easy and I always try and do my best for the team,” he said.
Lukas Podolski also has only two years remaining on his contract and, following Arsenal’s January interest in Schalke’s Julian Draxler, his future is uncertain. Podolski is not happy at being substituted so regularly this season and, despite starting on Saturday, he lasted only 61 minutes. Wenger, however, does regard Podolski as the best finisher at Arsenal.
Asked on Saturday about his future, Podolski said: “I’m here today. I’m happy at this club, I played so all things are good.”
Podolski sought out Wenger on the pitch during Saturday’s celebrations and drenched his manager with champagne. “He needed it,” he said.
“After nine years, he needs a little drink. When you wait nine years, especially for the fans, it’s something special. Everywhere there was pressure about Arsenal winning nothing, When you win something, you must celebrate, then you focus on next season.”