By Wayne Veysey
Arsene Wenger has agreed the terms of a new Arsenal contract that will keep him at the club until 2016.
The Frenchman is set to formally sign the two-year extension to his current deal within the next few weeks.
Goal understands that the fresh agreement will be on the same £7.5 million-a-year terms as Wenger's current contract, which expires next summer, and, while the club's longest-serving manager will not receive a pay rise, the deal will be supplemented by top-ups.
The new contract will end the uncertainty surrounding Wenger's future and extend his Arsenal reign to a remarkable 20 years if it is honoured, by which time he will be 66.
Wenger retained the full backing of American owner Stan Kroenke and the rest of the board, even when he came under more pressure last season from disgruntled supporters than at any point in his Arsenal career, and he has now agreed in principle to remain at the Emirates Stadium.
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Wenger's future is expected to be a key topic of discussion at the Arsenal AGM on Thursday, when shareholders will have the opportunity to question the board about club matters. There is unlikely to be an announcement but broad hints are expected to be dropped by new chairman Sir Chips Keswick about the club's faith in the manager. Kroenke will also be in attendance at the meeting.
As revealed by Goal in April, when Arsenal's top-four hopes were on a knife-edge, Kroenke wanted Wenger to sign a new deal irrespective of whether the club clinched a lucrative Champions League place. Preliminary talks on a new contract began over the summer and they have advanced to the point where sources are confident that the deal will be signed by the end of October.
Wenger gave a clear indication at the end of September that he wants to sign new terms which will take him into his third decade at the club, after Kroenke gave his full endorsement to the Frenchman remaining in charge for "the long term".
The manager, who has overseen an excellent start to the new campaign, said: "The good thing with me, if I have one quality, you don't need a lot of talks to extend the contract I have. [I will sign] when we find time. I don't think that's the most important problem at the moment.
"I would love to be here forever because that would mean I would be immortal. What I would like to do as long as I'm here is to give my best for this club because I love the club, of course.
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Asked if that meant that the talks would be straightforward, Wenger replied: "That's straightforward and I don't think there's anything more to add to that."
Kroenke had earlier given a ringing endorsement of Wenger on the eve of the Frenchman's 17th anniversary at Arsenal. "There is no one I feel more strongly about and I think he is doing a great job," explained the Denver-based owner. "We have been very supportive, we have never wavered, we are proud of him, proud of the club, the way the club is run and how it holds itself out to the world."
Kroenke explained that the club's most successful manager is central to his "long-term" Arsenal vision. "Arsene knows exactly how we feel, what our philosophy is, what we want to do and I feel like we are totally aligned. I think he wants to do it exactly the same way as we do," he added.
Although Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005, the board place far greater importance on his record of top-four finishes and success in navigating the group stages of the Champions League year after year.
The Gunners hierarchy have remained firm in their belief that they wanted Wenger to stay and develop a team around a British core of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, supplemented by proven foreign stars in the mould of £40m record signing Mesut Ozil and the 2012 principal signings Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
The north Londoners' high command are also convinced that new commercial deals, including the £150m Emirates contract that was front-loaded to come into effect this summer, leave Arsenal even better positioned in the medium and long term than they are now.
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