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21st Apr 2018

Ian Wright’s theory on Arsene Wenger could be bang on the money

He's probably right

Matthew Gault

It’s a convincing argument.

There has been a deluge of reports in the past 24 hours since Arsene Wenger announced that he would be stepping down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season.

After almost 22 years in charge, Wenger will finally bid farewell to a club he helped transform into a genuine Premier League superpower, guiding them to 17 trophies during his tenure including three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

In Wenger’s statement on the official Arsenal website, the Frenchman said, “after careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season.”

You’d certainly be excused for taking that at face value, but Ian Wright isn’t having any of it.

Wright played under Wenger for 18 months after the manager was appointed in September 1996 and believes that the man he got to know would never resign.

“Arsene Wenger is a man of principle, honesty and integrity – that is why I am convinced he has been sacked and not resigned,” Wright said in The Sun.

“For all the vitriol and abuse thrown at him, Arsene has never been a man to walk out before the end of a contract.

“It is a sad situation that it’s come to this and I don’t suppose we will ever find out who is responsible, because they will hide behind each other.

“One day he is doing a press conference with no hint of this, the next he’s gone. It doesn’t add up.

“But Arsene can go with his head high. That’s why, whatever the results, it is imperative he gets the send-off a true Arsenal and football legend deserves. We all owe him so much.”

Wright certainly has a point. Speaking back in February, Wenger insisted that he was proud of the fact that he had never broken a contract, yet that’s what has happened – Wenger’s deal at the Emirates wasn’t due to expire until the summer of 2019 having penned a new two-year deal in May 2017.

“I have always respected my contracts,” Wenger said. “I would like to remind you I said no to all the biggest clubs in the world to respect my contract so that’s always what I try to do.

As Wright pointed out, it seems strange that Wenger held his usual pre-match press conference on Thursday with not a single hint that this news was coming. It’s even stranger, though, that a man of Wenger’s pride and convictions would go back on his steadfast refusal to break a contract. With the new structure in place at Arsenal, with Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment and Raul Sanlehhi as director of football, there was perhaps pressure behind-the-scenes in the weeks leading up to Friday’s announcement.

Add to that the following line from BBC journalist David Ornstein, who seems to be as well-connected to Arsenal as anyone:

“I was told recently that Wenger was as stubborn, determined and energetic as ever and if he was to leave he would need to be dragged out kicking and screaming.”

It’s interesting, then, that Wenger would suddenly decide to resign with a year remaining on his current deal. However, Ornstein also noted that discussions had been taking place for some time and that the decision for Wenger to leave was mutual.

It’s unlikely that we’ll find out the exact circumstances leading up to Wenger’s announcement, but Wright’s theory is certainly not wholly implausible.

One thing’s for sure, though: Wenger will be gone in a month’s time, leaving Arsenal with the daunting task of finding a suitable replacement, a man capable of spearheading a new chapter and re-establishing the Gunners as Premier League contenders.