Contrary to popular perception, he has regularly visited the Emirates since
becoming majority owner last April and has attended every monthly board
meeting. He has also watched several matches this season, including the win
against Chelsea and the defeat by Liverpool.

The consistent message on Wenger from Kroenke and the rest of the board is
that his position is not contingent on finishing in the top four. Wenger,
though, acknowledged that it would be a “disaster” for the club to lose
their Champions League status and has said that he would only ­consider his
position if he personally felt that he had underachieved.

Arsenal are well aware that Wenger would be a leading candidate to ­manage
Real Madrid should Jose Mourinho leave this summer. Club sources have
privately dismissed ­suggestions that there are plans to invite the
Frenchman into a boardroom position at the Emirates in the close season.

Wenger, 63 this year, has consistently said that he intends to honour a
contract that expires in 2014. On Saturday, he ­indicated that he wants to
oversee an Arsenal revival.

“We have what it takes at the club [to rebuild in the summer] and we will add
what it takes,” Wenger said. Arsenal still believe they can attract top
players this summer – with Lukas Podolski, Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard among
their targets – but they know that Champions League qualification is
critical to that aim.

They also face major challenges – and decisions – over existing players, with
Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky all
approaching the end of their ­contracts.

Wenger retains hope that Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby will play again this
­season. “We have what it takes at the club when everybody is available
because we had many missing and big, big players, too,” Wenger said. “We are
in mid-February and Wilshere has played zero games, Diaby has played zero
games and [Per] Mertesacker is out for the rest of the season. Santos is out
for three months.

“That would be difficult for any club in the world to deal with. It’s hard
enough to lose one or two ­players and we have lost too many. But at the
moment I believe we are not making plans for next season. We are making
plans for the next game.”

That game, against rivals Tottenham Hotspur, is arguably the most important
north London derby in Wenger’s 16-year reign at Arsenal.

Wenger likened finishing in the top-four this season to winning a trophy. “Our
main target now is to focus on the championship,” he said. “People are
always asking the same question, but the first trophy is to ­finish in the
top four. That is vital for us. Let’s win our next home game and we will be

“A week ago, we won at Sunderland in the championship and that is our main
target. Then we lost at AC Milan and then again here. That’s basically down
to the fact that we had to give a lot on Wednesday night and then we had to
travel again. That is difficult for any team in the world.

“We put a lot of spirit into this game against Sunderland and if we keep that
spirit and recover a bit physically, then we can win that next game.”

Wenger has had his differences with Martin O’Neill, but the Sunderland manager
yesterday offered a resounding endorsement.

“You are talking about a bright and intelligent man,” O’Neill said. “His
judgment and record stands the highest scrutiny. They have qualified every
year for the Champions League and he could do that again.

“I only know Wenger from a distance, but what he has achieved has been
fantastic. When he chooses to leave, he will be a major, major loss.

“He has had a disappointing week and expectations have been high, but
eventually you win a game or two and the pressure passes on to the next


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