A question about the England job was always going to be one the cards at Arsene Wenger’s press conference this morning, and the Arsenal boss refused to rule out the move when it duel arrived. Gareth Southgate is in charge for England’s next four games following the departure of disgraced boss Sam Allardyce. The FA, who have close connections and a strong relationship with former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, have been keen on Wenger in the past and many at Wembley feel he would be the ideal appointment. The Frenchman’s contract runs out next summer, and though the board are keen for him to sign an extension, it will all come down to his personal decision. Despite Arsenal’s good form in recent weeks, the fierce criticism Wenger has received in recent seasons has affected him and he will only stay if he feels he is wanted. Speaking in his pre-Burnley press conference Wenger said:
“My priority is to do well here. If I am free one day why not, but at the moment my focus is on my job.”
For a manager who is so hands on when it comes to the day to day running of Arsenal, managing a national team would require a big adjustment. That said, at the age of 67, a part time arrangement might suit Wenger though he shows no signs of slowing down. The Arsenal boss certainly has the class and pedigree as a coach to manage the team, as well as the universal respect of the players and most of Fleet Street. Whether the hard core of match-going England supporters would be willing to accept such a partisan figure who is heavily associated with one club is a different matter. Moreover, Wenger has always insisted that an Englishman should manage the England team.
Elsewhere, Chris Coleman has laid some of the responsibility for Aaron Ramsey’s hamstring injury firmly at Wenger and Arsenal’s door. The dynamic midfielder will miss qualification games against Austria and Georgia having failed to recover from a hamstring injury he sustained on the opening day of the season against Liverpool. Coleman said:
“He doesn’t belong to us, he’s Arsenal’s player and it’s their call, they pay his wages, and if that’s the decision they made it’s up to them.
“We don’t know exactly what he does every day at Arsenal. They’re a great club, but it’s disappointing to lose a player of his importance.
“You always look at their history in training, his loading, the games he’s played and you ask could that injury have been prevented?”
Ramsey is an important player for club and country, but seems to be in the middle of a tug of war between the two parties. The Welshman purportedly complained of discomfort in his hamstring at halftime of the Liverpool game, but was sent back out on the pitch for the second period only to come off inured 15 minutes later. Arsenal have been very cautious with his rehabilitation and it seems they may be playing a bit of politics with Coleman by keeping him out of the firing line.
Finally, David Dein has dropped a hint that Wenger might be willing to stay on at the Emirates, telling TalkSport:
“Only he will answer that, he’s his own man and it is his decision.
“It depends how he feels during the season but he’s very fit, he’s very determined and he still has the fire in his belly.”
This story will run and run for the remainder of the season, and it will all come down to how well Arsenal do. If they fade from the title picture and there is unrest in the stadium, Wenger will more than likely walk away having taken the team as far as he can. What will be interesting is if Arsenal have some real success; winning the title, for example. Will Wenger think it the perfect end to the story, or will it just give him the taste for more?
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