Nasri: Wenger is going nowhere
Arsenal attacking midfielder Samir Nasri has maintained there is "no question" of Arsene Wenger vacating the Emirates Stadium hot-seat in the near future. The future of the Gunners manager, contracted until 2011, has come under scrutiny following comments made to a French television station that the prospect of linking up with Real Madrid presidential candidate Florentino Perez would be "interesting for any coach".
Wenger came in for criticism from some Arsenal supporters and was involved in a heated exchange during a shareholders forum as the club ended another season without silverware, leaving the Frenchman clearly irked by the whole situation. However, the 59-year-old - who transformed the fortunes of the north London club since his arrival in September 1996, winning the title three times and four FA Cups - has long championed the potential of his young squad, if accepting a couple of experienced men need to be added in the summer.
It remains to be seen what funds Wenger will have available. There are suggestions it could be as little as £15m, which would have to be supplemented by cash from player sales. Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor looks the most likely to leave, with AC Milan and Chelsea reportedly interested.
Despite all of the speculation, Nasri is adamant Wenger is going nowhere. "There is no question of him leaving," he declared the 21-year-old. I know that he still has a project for two years and he is counting on Arsenal rediscovering its glorious past. I am lucky to be managed by someone who trusts me and everything is good with my team-mates, who are top players."
Wenger can point to some encouragement from the Gunners' 21-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, which took them back into the top four, but there were semi-final disappointments in both the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Against their title rivals, Arsenal had an impressive record, having beaten eventual champions Manchester United at the Emirates in November and also won at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking after his side's goalless draw at Old Trafford on Saturday, which was an improved display but not enough to delay United's celebrations, Wenger felt there were plenty of reasons to be positive.
"The only game we lost [against the top four] was Chelsea, and even that was bad luck in being down to the disappointment of the Champions League [defeat]," he told Arsenal TV Online. "We want to keep faith in this team, which I personally believe is very, very important. I am very confident we will challenge next year."
Should, as expected, Wenger remain at the helm come August, key to Arsenal's hopes of bridging the 18-point gap on United is likely to be the performance of Andrey Arshavin, who joined the club on transfer-deadline day. The Russia international is in no doubt of what this group of players can achieve.
"We wanted to show [against United] that our team is not so weak as to be only the fourth in the Premier League. I think we have proved it," he said. "I hope that [next season] we can experience at the Emirates the same feelings, emotions and the joy of victory in the English championship."
While going through a barren spell during February, when their potent frontline failed to fire, Arsenal's main weakness this season has been in defence. Wenger is expected to strengthen in that area over the summer, with Ajax's £7.5m-rated Belgium international Thomas Vermaelen said to be high on his shopping list.
Paris Saint-Germain centre-half Mamadou Sakho, 19, and Lille's holding midfielder Yohan Cabaye, 23, are other reported targets, while interest in Liverpool's Spain international Xabi Alonso is likely to be renewed.