Three more years for Wenger

Julian Harris
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ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger is set to sign a new three-year contract this week that will extend his reign in north London to 21 years.

The 64-year-old, who joined the Gunners from Nagoya Grampus in October 1996, is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal, with his current contract expiring next month.

But an agreement to keep Wenger at the club until 2017 could be settled by Wednesday. At the latest, a new deal will be announced by the club before the end of May.

The Frenchman, who won his fifth FA Cup over the weekend courtesy of Saturday’s 3-2 victory against Hull City at Wembley, will be paid between £7m and £8m a year for his services.

Wenger is already the longest-serving manager in the Premier League, following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United last summer. Wenger has managed over 1,000 competitive games for the north London club.

The agreement should further boost morale among his players, after a period of uncertainty over the manager’s future. Wenger recently sought to reassure fans that he would not be leaving the club, yet has refused to explicitly confirm that he will sign an extended contract.

The weekend’s FA Cup triumph ended a nine-year wait for major silverware at Arsenal. But having secured the historic trophy, many of the team’s players are keen for their manager to commit for the future.

“He’s the one who put this team together, and he’s the one that believed in us,” defender Kieran Gibbs said yesterday. “We did this [won the FA Cup] as well for him, so credit to him and hopefully he’ll stay.”

Aaron Ramsey, whose winning goal against Hull on Saturday was his 16th of the season for Arsenal, was emphatic when asked if a new Wenger contract would be good news for the players. “Absolutely – he’s instrumental in the way we play, he’s always had his belief in us, so this trophy’s as much for him as it is for us. We’ve been under a bit of pressure over the last few years, he’s always believed in us and stuck by us.”

The sentiment was echoed by Olivier Giroud, the French centre-forward who Wenger signed from Montpellier in 2012 for a fee of around £12m.

“We have a good alchemy and the boss has always believed in us and trusted in the squad,” Giroud said yesterday while taking part in the club’s celebrations. “We want to dedicate the trophy to him as well as all our fans.”

The Gunners were dealt a shock during the early stages of Saturday’s final, as Hull took a lead within four minutes when James Chester deflected a Tom Huddlestone volley into the corner of the net.

And with under 10 minutes on the clock the underdogs’ lead was doubled, Curtis Davies pouncing on an Alex Bruce header that had come back off the post.

The nightmare could have worsened soon after, yet Gibbs’ goal-line clearance prevented Arsenal from going three goals down.

A Santi Cazorla free-kick from distance reduced the lead to one goal at the interval, before Laurent Koscielny volleyed in from close range in the 70th minute to send the game into extra-time.

Eventually, with just over 10 minutes until a penalty shoot-out, the Gunners’ superiority shone through when Ramsey jabbed the ball inside goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s near post to land Arsenal their first silverware since winning the same competition in 2005.

5 FA Cup wins for Wenger (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014)

9 Years since Arsenal’s last trophy (2005 FA Cup)

11 FA Cup wins for Arsenal (1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014) – equalling Manchester United’s record

8 Major trophies won by Wenger at Arsenal (Includes Premier League titles – 1998, 2002, 2004)

9 Arsenal players who featured on Saturday who have won major trophies before