Arsene Wenger hints at Arsenal succession plan at stormy AGM
Long-serving manager says he wants whoever takes over at the Emirates to do even better than him, amid shareholder discontent over finances
Arsene Wenger, the battle-scarred Gunners boss, was given another vote of confidence by the Arsenal board at the club's AGM yesterday, but it is clear that the French manager is now planning for his eventual successor after almost 20 years at the helm.
Wenger's current contract expires in 2017 and it appears that the Frenchman, who will by then be 67 years old and have been in the job for 21 years, is hoping to hand over the reins when the time comes.
It was another "stormy" AGM says The Times, and Wenger's response to a question from one disgruntled shareholder, unhappy with performances in Europe, "was robust enough to indicate that he is by no means ready to lay down the cudgels just yet".
But it was clear that "the prospect of his eventual departure is on his mind for the first time", says the paper.
In addition to talking about his own plans for Arsenal, Wenger said he wanted to ensure that the club "can do even better when I leave". He added that it was "very important to me that I leave the club in the shape that the guy who comes after me can do better".
Wenger "outlined how the club was now into phase three of his tenure as manager after the 'easy' glory years from 1996 until 2005 and what he regards as the more substantial achievement to 2013 of maintaining the club in Europe's elite while funding a new stadium", says the Daily Telegraph. "The directors also repeatedly made it clear that Wenger maintains their full support."
However, there were questions over Arsenal's transfer strategy after a summer in which they signed only one player, goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The most controversial moments of the meeting came when shareholders asked about a payment of £3m from the club to its owner Stan Kroenke, who lived up to his nickname 'Silent Stan' by attending but not addressing the meeting.
The lack of detail about the payments "prompted increasing frustration from supporters" and one answer "provoked heckling from shareholders, says The Guardian. At one point, chairman Chips Keswick threatened to end the meeting.
He was "noticably piqued" by one angry intervention comparing the payment to the one that landed Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini in hot water with Fifa.