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Wenger puts Arsenal contract talks on hold until next summer

The Frenchman has told the club that he will not discuss a new deal until the end of the season at the earliest as the feeling grows that he is serving his final Gunners contract

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Arsene Wenger has told Arsenal that he will not hold contract talks with the club before next summer, Goal.com can reveal.

The manager’s current deal runs until June 2014 and Wenger has been informally approached by the board to arrange a time to open discussions over a new deal.

But Goal.com has learned that Wenger has no intention of discussing an extension during the season and that he will assess his future at the end of the current campaign. “There will be no talks before then,” one source said.

It is expected that the most successful manager in Arsenal's history will judge his position at the end of the season, with the tipping point likely to be whether he records a 17th consecutive top-four finish.

This fits in with Wenger’s own public comments in the wake of Saturday’s limp 2-0 defeat against Swansea, which prompted the Frenchman to turn his anger on his own players.

Wenger stuck to his oft-stated line of honouring his contracts, while at the same time reiterating his confidence about his ability to drive the club forward.

“If you ask me always about my future, I can only give you one answer,” he said. “I always respected my contracts, and that is it.”

The Arsenal board, led by majority owner Stan Kroenke and chief executive Ivan Gazidis, retain complete faith in Wenger and would like to extend a reign that is now in its 17th year.

Although Arsenal languish in 10th place in the league and have their lowest points haul at this stage of the season in 18 years, the board remain convinced by Wenger and put far greater store in his record of top-four finishes and success in navigating the group stages of the Champions League year after year.

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If Arsenal fail to attain a Champions League place this season, there is a strong possibility that Wenger will conclude he has failed to achieve his primary objective and agree an amicable exit strategy with the club.

Even if the Gunners finish in the top four, there is a growing expectation at the club that Wenger’s current contract will be his last one.

The 63-year-old, who is believed to be the second highest-earning Premier League manager behind Sir Alex Ferguson, may decide to not to sign a new deal but stay on for one last season.

Such is Wenger’s elevated status at Emirates Stadium that he has a far greater say in his destiny than any English-based boss, bar perhaps Ferguson.

Despite Arsenal going seven seasons without winning a trophy, Wenger is appreciated by the board for maintaining the club's elite status either side of the move from Highbury while having a transfer budget that was dwarfed by the club's rivals.

The north Londoners' high command are also convinced that new commercial deals, such as the recently-announced £150million Emirates contract that comes into effect from 2014, and Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules, leave Arsenal even better positioned in the medium and long term than they are now.

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