Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal chairman speaks out as Arsene Wenger vows to take fans' views on board

Arsene Wenger admits he will take the opinion of Arsenal's fans on board when he makes up his mind over his future with chairman Sir Chips Keswick announcing any decision will be a "mutual" one.

The Gunners are in a wretched run of form after losing five of their last seven games in all competitions - topped by a 5-1 thrashing at home to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night which saw the Bundesliga champions seal a 10-2 aggregate victory.

Wenger's current contract is up in the summer and the 67-year-old insists he has yet to make up his mind as to whether he will stay or not.

Around 200 supporters protested ahead of the Munich game, imploring Wenger to leave and another march is planned before Saturday's FA Cup sixth-round clash at home to Lincoln.

The Frenchman has said he will make a decision either this month or next and it has been widely reported that a new two-year deal is ready and waiting to be signed if Wenger so desires.

He has been cagey over his future when pressed on the matter in recent weeks but did concede that what the fans think of him would go some way to helping him decide whether to extend his two-decade spell at the helm.

Asked whether the fans' opinion of him has any impact on the decision, he replied: "Yes. Of course, you consider everything.

"It will not be the most important factor but of course, you consider it.

"It is difficult for me to judge (the protest). I have worked very hard for 20 years to make our fans happy and when you lose the games, I understand they are not happy.

"I do not want to judge that, I am not able to. I live in my daily work with my complete commitment.

"After that, I have said many times that you have to accept different opinions.

"Look, I don't work for my image, I work for this club with full commitment.

"I think I've shown since I'm here that first of all I love this club, that I'm loyal to this club and that I make the right decisions for this club.

"I will continue to do that. Of course, in respecting the values that I think are vital for me. If I cannot do that, I will not be here."

The visit of Vanarama National League leaders Lincoln offers a chance for respite for Wenger and his players, but also the opportunity for the Imps to heap more misery on the club.

The heavy loss to Bayern may have seen Arsenal humiliated on a big stage but, unlike the influence of the fans, Wenger says the outcome will have no bearing on his future.

"It's in the first game that we failed," he said of the Bayern tie.

"In the second game, we had good moments and were a bit unlucky with the decisions of the referee. That will not be a decider (for my future)."

After Wenger's media duties, Keswick released a short statement on Arsenal's official website, acknowledging the discontent of some supporters while insisting a knee-jerk decision on Wenger's future would not be made.

"We are fully aware of the attention currently focused on the club and understand the debate," said Keswick.

"We respect that fans are entitled to their different individual opinions but we will always run this great football club with its best long-term interests at heart.

"Arsene has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time in the right way."

Wenger has been criticised not only by a growing number of Arsenal fans but also by former professionals, some of whom played under him in north London.

Ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown said Wenger was "like a watch that has stopped" while former favourite Ian Wright said the manager was "like a lost man" and claimed everything at the club was "imploding".

But Wenger has found an ally in the shape of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who hailed the former Monaco boss a football great.

''Arsene Wenger is an icon of Arsenal. Even his first name is Arsene. It's linked for eternity,'' Infantino said in London on Thursday.

''I'm very happy I have to deal with many other challenges, but not with managing Arsenal.

''It will be up to the managers of Arsenal to decide what the future of Arsenal will be.

''But what Arsene Wenger has done in Arsenal throughout history is certainly... he's a big personality of football. He's one of the football legends.''

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