Belfast Telegraph

Wenger won't wave farewell to dugout if he ends Arsenal reign

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger insists the curtain will not come down on his managerial career even if he announces his departure from Arsenal in the next two months.

The 67-year-old has been in charge of the Gunners for more than 20 years but has seen his position come under increased scrutiny following the 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.

He confirmed at his press conference yesterday that he would make a firm decision on his position in either March or April.

But he said he would not walk away purely because of the Champions League defeat and that he would look to manage elsewhere if he opted against signing a fresh deal when his current contract expires in the summer.

When asked if he ever feels like he has had enough of management, he replied: "No. No matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it's here or somewhere else. Absolutely.

"On a night like that, of course I hate defeat. I want to do extremely well for this club and I feel a big responsibility. You do not stay for 20 years to then walk out after a defeat like that. What is important is that the club makes the right decision for the future.

"I had many opportunities to go somewhere else during that period and I care about this club and I care about its future."

If Wenger, whose side faces Sutton in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday, is to leave, and barring a miracle turnaround in the second leg against Bayern, he will end his reign without being able to deliver the Champions League.

But he insists the expectations of the increasing number of supporters calling for a change in manager should be evaluated based on where the club were when he first took over in 1996.

"Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game, that is part of it, you have to accept that as much as it hurts to lose," he said.

"If you look at the history, Arsenal had fewer Champions League games when I arrived than I had in my career already.

"So I hope in the future we can win this trophy, or Arsenal can win this trophy, but it is not like when I arrived Arsenal had already won the European Cup five times. They played maybe 10 games so you have to take into perspective some demands.

"It is very important that the club is always in safe hands, whether that is me or someone else, which I am sure it will be."

With the post-mortem of the devastating defeat in Bavaria still ongoing, Wenger quashed speculation there had been a dressing room disagreement.

"No. Not at all," he said when questioned about a post-match row. "Everybody was of course deeply disappointed and affected but there was no incident in the dressing room."

Wenger has also seen a number of former Arsenal favourites offer their opinions on his future.

Lee Dixon and Martin Keown speculated over whether Wenger would quit. But he said was not concerning himself with anyone else's opinions.

"I am used to it," he said. "In life it is important that you do what you think is right. All the rest of it is judgment."

With their Champions League hopes all but extinguished and hopes of a first Premier League title since 2004 dwindling, the FA Cup could again offer salvation.

Wenger has won the competition six times, a joint-record, and takes his side to face non-league Sutton on their artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane on Monday.

"I always had in my head that it was a very important game," he added. "That result at Bayern will not influence my selection.

"The FA Cup is one of our targets. It's the next game for us to bounce back."

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