Arsene Wenger’s future at Arsenal will be determined by the success of the new team he will build around Mesut Ozil.
The Arsenal manager has just one year left on his contract at the Emirates but said he would consider how well the team has done this season before committing himself to the club for the future. Arsenal have not won a major trophy - or finished in the top two in the Premier League - for eight years, but with the £42.5m arrival of Ozil from Real Madrid, optimism is back.
The decision on Wenger’s future, then, will not be made until it is clear how good this new Arsenal team is.
“We are in no hurry,” Wenger said. “We are in September and my contract finishes in June. There's a long way to go. There is no need to plan.”
The performance of the team, he said, will be the decisive factor.
“I have said many times I want to do well with this club and in the end I will sit down and think how well have I done with the team I have had. That has to be sufficient for me to decide yes or no.”
When asked again whether the team’s success would decide his future, Wenger was clear: “One of the main judgements you can have about a manager is how well he does with his team.”
The last few years have not been particularly successful at Arsenal, with no trophy since the FA Cup in 2005 and only third or fourth finishes in the Premier League since then too. But Wenger can point to the signing of Ozil – for almost three-times the previous club record fee – as a message suggesting a new era of success and optimism at the Emirates after a period of enforced austerity.
“We had to go through some years when I signed a long-term contract where we had some restricted financial potential. And the target was to stay in the Champions League in this period and we managed to do it. We are now in a strong position financially.”
Wenger had acquired a reputation as a man reluctant to spend money but insisted that spending the £42.5m sat easily with him, as his main issue is with teams heavily spending borrowed or benefactor wealth.
“Not at all,” Wenger said, when asked if the fee jarred with him. “There are two things that are completely different. One, I fight for the teams to spend the money they had made and not the money they have artificially earned. Once they have made that money I am happy to spend it.”
Beyond that, Wenger was keen only to spend big on the very best players, as he has now done.
“As you know as well, what is very important for us is to find world-class players. There are not plenty around. The best thing is to spend the money in a very efficient way that means you strengthen the team and spend the money you can afford. I'm confident that with Ozil we have done that.”
Wenger admitted his surprise that Real Madrid let Ozil go, and suggested it was because having signed Isco and Gareth Bale, they needed to get rid of some of their star attackers.
“Honestly I think it was linked with the Bale transfer. I don't know exactly what happened inside the club in Madrid. Was it down to financial reasons? Was it down to the fact that when they bought Bale they had Isco and they had to let somebody go? I was surprised, yes.”