Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure to ensure Arsenal qualify for the Champions League next season as the club consider an early decision over his future, according to Daily Mail.
The Gunners want to avoid the uncertainty that destabilised their form last season, partly caused by Wenger’s long-running contract saga, in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997, a year after the Frenchman joined the club.
The manager’s hopes of continuing in the role will be strengthened by qualifying for Europe’s elite competition, but because they are sixth in the Premier League and eight points off fourth spot, it looks like the best route back would be by winning the Europa League.
However, Wenger’s plan to take the competition seriously after fielding weakened teams in the group stages took a hammer blow on Tuesday after it was confirmed that £52million summer signing Alexandre Lacazette would miss up to six weeks after having knee surgery.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott sold in January, Danny Welbeck is the only fit senior centre forward for Thursday’s last-32 first-leg clash away at Swedish side Ostersunds.
Some members of the club’s hierarchy would prefer Wenger’s future to be settled ahead of next season and there appear to be three options for the Gunners: Wenger leaving at the end of the season, confirming he will go when his deal expires in the summer of 2019, or signing yet another contract extension
Wenger will want to see out his current deal but Sportsmail understands an exit strategy for him leaving this summer is in place.
The fear for Arsenal is that another season outside the Champions League will affect their ability to attract lucrative commercial deals.
They are negotiating a new kit deal which is due to start in the summer of 2019, with their Puma contract worth £30m a year expiring at the end of next season.
Adidas and Nike both have a firm interest in taking over from Puma as Arsenal’s kit supplier.
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