- Arsene Wenger under increasing pressure to secure Champions League return
- Club are considering an early decision over his future to avoid uncertainty
- Arsenal were destabilised last season by doubts over Wenger’s future as boss
- The season ended with Arsenal qualifying only for the UEFA Europa League
- They can return to top competition with top four finish or Europa League success
- Club hierarchy are worried failure to return to Champions League will have a negative impact on kit sponsor ship deal
Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure to ensure Arsenal qualify for the Champions League next season as the club consider an early decision over his future.
The Gunners want to avoid the uncertainty that destabilised their form last season, partly caused by Wenger’s long-running contract saga, in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997, a year after the Frenchman joined the club.
The manager’s hopes of continuing in the role will be strengthened by qualifying for Europe’s elite competition, but because they are sixth in the Premier League and eight points off fourth spot, it looks like the best route back would be by winning the Europa League.
Arsene Wenger is under pressure to ensure Arsenal return to the Champions League
Wenger reacts on the sidelines as Arsenal lose the North London derby to Tottenham
Premier League unless stated
Thu Ostersunds (A) Europa League
Feb 22 Ostersunds (H) Europa League
Feb 25 Man City (Wembley) EFL Cup
Mar 1 Manchester City (H)
Mar 4 Brighton (A)
Mar 11 Watford (H)
However, Wenger’s plan to take the competition seriously after fielding weakened teams in the group stages took a hammer blow on Tuesday after it was confirmed that £52million summer signing Alexandre Lacazette would miss up to six weeks after having knee surgery.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott sold in January, Danny Welbeck is the only fit senior centre forward for Thursday’s last-32 first-leg clash away at Swedish side Ostersunds.
Some members of the club’s hierarchy would prefer Wenger’s future to be settled ahead of next season and there appear to be three options for the Gunners: Wenger leaving at the end of the season, confirming he will go when his deal expires in the summer of 2019, or signing yet another contract extension
Wenger by an advertising board that reads ‘Help’ at Wembley on Saturday afternoon
Mesut Ozil cuts a dejected figure as Arsenal are beaten by their rivals Tottenham on Saturday
Arsenal have been playing Europa League football this season for the first time in 20 years
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Wenger will want to see out his current deal but Sportsmail understands an exit strategy for him leaving this summer is in place.
The fear for Arsenal is that another season outside the Champions League will affect their ability to attract lucrative commercial deals.
They are negotiating a new kit deal which is due to start in the summer of 2019, with their Puma contract worth £30m a year expiring at the end of next season.
Adidas and Nike both have a firm interest in taking over from Puma as Arsenal’s kit supplier.
But Sportsmail understands both firms have shown an apprehension in investing huge money due to the uncertainty over when the club will be back in the Champions League.
The Gunners could return to the Champions League if they win the Europa League this season
Alexandre Lacazette will be out for six weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery
£56m man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied and is ineligible to play in Europe