Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has played down suggestions he could be headhunted by Arsenal to replace Arsene Wenger, insisting he wants to stay with the south coast club.
Howe admits he is pleased that his success in taking the Cherries from the fourth tier to the Premier League has been recognised, but the top flight’s youngest manager, 38, has vowed to ignore speculation that he has been anointed to succeed English football’s longest serving coach.
“I’d rather be linked doing something right than the other way, but my only focus is winning with Bournemouth. I am loyal. I love the town and I want to continue that association for as long as possible,” said Howe.
“It [speculation] is meaningless. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t need to hear it. I just want to win games. It's very hard to predict the future. If you try to then you come unstuck. In football management, you live week to week.
“You turn a blind eye to speculation and anyone that tells me about it. I believe it is not meaningful and it doesn’t help me get results for this club.”
Arsenal could be in need of a new manager as soon as next summer, when Wenger’s current contract is due to expire.
Gunners majority owner Stan Kroenke is believed to be ready to offer the Frenchman a new deal to extend his 20-year reign, though Wenger routinely takes his time over contract renewal discussions and has indicated that he may finally step down at the end of the season if results do not prove sufficiently encouraging.
The north London club’s hierarchy is said to have been impressed not only by Howe’s results but also his footballing sensibilities, and relations between the parties were strengthened last week when Arsenal allowed midfielder Jack Wilshere to join Bournemouth on loan for the rest of the campaign.
Former Bournemouth defender Howe, whose playing career was cut short by injury, was appointed manager in January 2009 aged just 31 and promptly overturned a 17-point deficit in half a season to save the club from being relegated out of the Football League.
He took the Cherries up to the third tier the following year and, after leaving for a two-year stint at Burnley in the Championship, returned in 2012 and led them to two more promotions in three years.
It earned Bournemouth their first year in the Premier League, which they consolidated by finishing 16th last term, and won Howe the Football League’s Manager of the Decade award.
Howe has hinted he may hand Wilshere a starting debut for the visit of West Brom on Saturday.
“He has settled in very well with the changing room and dynamics of the group,” he said. “He has given the whole club a lift and raised levels in training. His technical ability is of a very high level. We’ll see what my team selection is.”