London - Long-serving
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year contract, the
club announced on Wednesday, ending months of speculation about his
Wenger has presided over a gruelling season, which saw his team fail
to qualify for the Champions League, but masterminded a stunning FA Cup
final win over Chelsea last weekend.
The 67-year-old Frenchman's new deal, which will take his tenure up
to 23 years, is believed to have been rubber-stamped during a board
meeting on Tuesday.
"I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with
optimism and excitement. We are looking at what we do well and how we
can be stronger everywhere," Wenger told Arsenal's website.
"This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful."
Arsenal said Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis had conducted "a
full review of our on and off-the-pitch activities" to identify areas
for improvement in view of a title challenge.
American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke said: "Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe.
"It's what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won't rest until that is achieved.
"Arsene is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing."
Wenger's new contract brings to an end the most traumatic season of his near 21-year Arsenal tenure.
Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification for the first
time in 20 years and were thrashed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in
the Champions League last 16.
He has come under greater pressure from supporters than ever before,
with fans holding 'Wenger Out' placards, boycotting home games and
chartering planes to trail banners calling for him to go.
Wenger's switch to a
back three enabled Arsenal to end the season in style, winning seven of
their last eight league games before toppling Chelsea in last Sunday's
FA Cup final.
But he has been deeply hurt by the criticism he has received,
branding the conduct of some supporters a "disgrace" and saying it
created a "horrendous atmosphere" around the team.
Gazidis defended the board's decision to stand by Wenger.
"I think in football, the judgements are so black and white that
often, if you don't fire your manager, then you're seen as being
unambitious. I think that's ludicrous," he said.
"You don't fire good people, you don't fire people who are world-class, you don't fire people who are driven to improve."
In an interview on Arsenal's website, Wenger appealed to fans: "Let's
be together to support our players, to support the club and all give
our absolute best to be at the level that we want to be."
Arsenal's Wembley win against Chelsea gave them a third FA Cup in
four seasons and made Wenger the first manager in history to have won
the tournament seven times.
It is now 13 years since the last of his three Premier League title
wins, however, while he has presided over a remarkable seven successive
last-16 exits in the Champions League.
His key objectives for the close season will be to tie star duo
Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to new contracts and strengthen his squad
for the rigours of a Europa League campaign.
Wenger said Arsenal would only look to sign "top, top quality"
players and said having a "very heavy squad" meant "we might lose some
"We're committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season," he added.
Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, an Arsenal shareholder who
recently had a takeover bid rejected, warned that Wenger won't be
successful unless he has the complete backing of the board.
"What is now of paramount importance is that he receives the full support of the board and majority shareholder," Usmanov said.
"He has a great opportunity to deliver the success that the fans
deserve. However without the right support there remains a real risk his
legacy will be tarnished."