Wenger extension?

Arsenal remain hopeful Arsene Wenger will stay as manager beyond the end of the season but have no immediate plans to open contract talks.

Wenger’s current deal expires at the end of the campaign and the club want him to extend his 20-year spell in north London.

Chairman Sir Chips Keswick was questioned about the Frenchman’s contract situation during the club’s AGM on Monday.

He said: “We all recognise the fantastic contribution Arsene has made to the club in last 20 years.

“We are confident about his ability to take us forward.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time but our focus is on maintaining the current run and competing for trophies.”

Wenger himself was giving little away, other than confirming he would not still be in charge in another 20 years.

Monday’s AGM was a far more cordial affair than the stormy meetings in the past due to Arsenal’s improved results on the pitch.

Wenger was warmly applauded by shareholders when presented with a portrait of himself, made up of the names of the 210 players he has picked for the club, to mark his 20th anniversary in charge.

In keeping with the mood he opened his speech with a joke, saying: “Yes, it’s 20 years. I’m sorry!

“I would like to apologise for every minute I made you suffer in these 20 years – but you don’t look too bad for people who have suffered for 20 years.

“I am sorry for the boy who was born 20 years ago and has only known one manager. I would like to reassure him that when he is 40 he will know a few more.”

Wenger then went on to state Arsenal should mount a challenge for the Premier League title this season, and set them a points target of between 82 and 86.

Despite a lacklustre goalless draw at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday, the Gunners are currently joint top of the table with Manchester City and Liverpool.

“Today we are in a much more competitive position to fight for the championship than five or six years ago,” he said.

“I believe we have a competitive team in a very competitive league.

“After nine games we have 20 points, which means the championship will be decided between 82 to 86 points.

“I believe the team has the commitment, togetherness, hunger, desire and unity and we have a good chance to compete for the Premier League.

“That is the target and I am absolutely committed to fulfilling it and giving my best so that we are successful until the end of the season.”

Wenger received an ovation as he left the stage, while the only sticky moments this year concerned off-field matters.

There was a close call for majority shareholder Stan Kroenke with the room divided over whether to keep him on as a director, but a second show of hands were in his favour.

Meanwhile, Keswick defended the salary and bonus paid to club chief executive Ivan Gazidis, which was questioned by some fans.

“Ivan is doing a first-class job in leading the development of the club across all aspects and representing our values, and we are lucky to have him,” he said.

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