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Arsene Wenger insists he will head into tomorrow’s board meeting to discuss his Arsenal future perfectly equipped with all he needs to secure a new contract – namely a recording of Saturday’s FA Cup final win over 10-man Chelsea.
FA Cup final
Sanchez 4, Ramsey 79
Chelsea ……….. 1
It remains unclear whether the 67-year-old will continue as manager of the Gunners, despite capping a disappointing season with a record- breaking victory over the newly crowned Premier League champions.
Wenger has come in for criticism from a number of Arsenal fans this season after the club failed to reach the Champions League for the first time in 19 years, with protests calling for the Frenchman to leave when his current deal expires next month.
Arsenal finished fifth in the league, having crashed out of the Champions League following a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich. But Wenger, and his Arsenal players, redeemed their campaign to secure a record 13th FA Cup success for the club.
A controversial Alexis Sanchez goal opened proceedings, with referee Anthony Taylor over-ruling an offside decision having missed a handball from the Chilean in the build-up.
Diego Costa levelled for the below-par Blues after Victor Moses had picked up a second yellow card for diving in the Arsenal box, only to see Aaron Ramsey head home the decisive goal three minutes later.
Wenger revealed after the game the Arsenal board will hold a meeting tomorrow, with his future expected to be decided. And the Frenchman believes the victory over Antonio Conte’s Chelsea is proof enough that he is the right man to continue as Arsenal boss.
Asked if he would be preparing a presentation ahead of the meeting, Wenger said: “The best presentation is to watch the game. I’ve played until the end of my contract, which is today, basically. I think I have shown you that I have exactly the same commitment.
“For me, the contract does not have special meaning but, because of the debate, maybe I should have sorted that out earlier.”
As well as Arsenal moving ahead of Manchester United as the most successful team in the history of the FA Cup, Saturday’s win also secured Wenger’s spot as the competition’s best manager. He overtook George Ramsay, who won six FA Cups with Aston Villa between 1887 and 1920, as he secured his seventh success. And Wenger insists he drilled into his players succeeding against Chelsea was more pertinent than his own future.
“I just told them to focus on what is important, our future, the future of the club, whether I stay or not. The players play for their future, for their next season,” he said.
“I love my job and I love to win. I love to build, I love to get people going and I love what I do. I invite you to live with me one day and one thing you cannot question is my commitment.”
Wenger berated those fans who had called for his exit during matches in the latter part of the season, but said he does not have to hold it against them in the long-run.
“I am a forgiving man,” he said. “You cannot be in this job (if you are not forgiving). This job is basically trusting human beings. If you cannot forgive, you cannot trust. The only bit of advice I have for young coaches, if you have a tendency to be paranoid don’t do this job.
“I meet many Arsenal fans who are absolutely fantastic. It was maybe one per cent. Ninety-nine per cent of our fans are absolutely fantastic. We play for the 99.9%.
“That’s why I said it’s not about popularity, it’s about consequence. It’s the board who has to decide who will lead the club in the future. It’s for me afterwards to decide, if they want me, whether it’s yes or no.”
After a torrid run of form at the start of spring, Wenger opted to alter his tactics and set his side out with a three-man defence.
That change came ahead of a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough on April 17 and Arsenal would lose just one game with that formation, which Wenger stuck with for Saturday’s final despite missing a number of key personnel.
With Laurent Koscielny banned and Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi injured, Wenger called on club captain Per Mertesacker to start his first game in 392 days. Despite concerns over his fitness, having only featured for 37 minutes over the course of the entire campaign, the German World Cup winner was a man-of-the-match contender. It was expected the 32-year-old would endure a difficult afternoon against the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, but instead Mertesacker was at the top of the game, leading Wenger to single him out for individual praise.
“I expect to perform at that level every single week,” Mertesacker said. “I don’t know if I’m capable but I’ve done it for 15 years. The more people that write me off, the stronger I get. That’s my feeling. I think we have shown great support in him (Wenger) as well and for his trust in us. We have shown with that performance, it’s a statement.”