after the draw against United we have to prepare ourselves for a visit to the world’s laughingest relegated team, QPR. It seems that one of their mercenary players was pictured chuckling as they left the pitch following their draw with Reading which saw them booted down to the Championship next season. Their mercenary manager was laughing too but, as Football 365 point out, it’s ok for him to laugh because he’s a cheeky chappy and not a dusky foreigner.
I often worry about games like this because while there’s little doubt QPR have assembled a squad of players who, for the most part, couldn’t give a fish’s tit about the club, there’s also an element of relentless pressure as the season goes on. When you have all the mental strength of a shoe it’s little wonder defeats come as regularly as they do. Now that their relegation is confirmed, it’ll be like a weight off and they may play with something approaching freedom, unshackled from the bottom of the table sideshow.
It’s a very different challenge from some we’ve faced in recent weeks. Everton, and to a lesser extent United because of their title win the previous Monday, were top of the table clashes. The game against Moyes’s team in particular was one from which both teams really needed three points but ended up cancelling each other out. The game this weekend will be very different and all the pressure will be on us. Something to think about, and we can discuss this in more detail as it approaches.
Meanwhile, this morning’s Telegraph runs a story about how Arsene Wenger could join PSG this summer, with their ‘most senior figures’ telling ‘members of their circle’ that the manager has been persuaded to leave Arsenal. The article suggests that the final year of Wenger’s contract is ‘optional’, and this could see the move happen at the end of this season.
He was asked about on Saturday after the game, and said:
I’m preparing for the next match and next season with Arsenal. I’ve always seen my contracts through, and it’s not at my age that I’m going to change.
And a few months ago, he denied a similar story, saying:
I have also been linked with the job. But I’ve already got a job and I’m trying at this moment to re-establish the order of my “own house” because everything is not all right there. I’m concentrated on that, and nothing else. For my part, I must show loyalty to my employers, my club and my contract. I still have one and half years of work to do at Arsenal.
I think that makes it pretty clear that the idea of the final year of his deal being option is pure speculation. Not to mention the concept itself is little short of ludicrous, I’ve never really heard of any manager or player have such a contractual arrangement, and certainly not at Arsenal. Still, there’s always an angle in stories like this. We can all have our own guess at who decided to muddy the waters with that little nugget.
While it’s fairly obvious that a change of manager is something the club have to consider in the not too distant future, for various reasons, I’d be massively surprised if Wenger didn’t see out his deal which expires next summer. Even if we finish outside the top four I can’t see anything happening, unless there’s some kind of mutual agreement between both parties.
But even then we know from all the noises coming out of the club that Arsene retains the full support of the board, the owner, and even the man sitting on the outside with his 30% stake has gone on record time and time again in his support. Given everything he’s ever said about respecting contracts, I’d be amazed if there were agitation from Wenger’s side. I suspect this is probably PSG stirring things up as they look for Ancelotti’s replacement.
That theory might well be backed up when you consider it was the same newspaper who went large with an ‘exclusive story’ about a £1.5bn takeover from a ‘middle eastern consortium’ on the eve of the North London derby. It was one which didn’t stand up to much scrutiny and it doesn’t take much to link that story with the latest one. For me this is, essentially, ground work being carried out via the media. And like any high profile ‘transfer’, whether that’s player or manager, we know the interested parties prefer it when things are destabilised somewhat.
As I’ve said, a change is inevitable at this point, but for everything we know about how Arsene and Arsenal operate, it’d be a massive shock if it happened before next summer. What we have to hope for is that there’s a succession plan, a real and concrete scheme to ensure that when the change does happen it’s done properly and for the long-term benefit of the club. Look at how Bayern announced Pep Guardiola, it doesn’t have to have a negative impact in any way, even if it’s announced before the end of the season.
What’s much more important, at this point, is that this story doesn’t become a distraction from the job we have to do in our final three games. I doubt it’ll make any odds to Wenger, he’s been there, done that and worn the t-shirt when it comes to this kind of thing, and hopefully the players remain focused on QPR, then Wigan, then Newcastle.