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Wenger meets Gazidis as Arsenal boss steps up preparations for next season

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was at the club's training ground on Monday for talks with Arsene Wenger as the manager continues to make preparations for next season despite so far failing to sign the two-year contract extension agreed last October.

Wenger's backroom staff, including closest ally Boro Primorac, are being kept in the dark over the Frenchman's future. Nevertheless, the two-year extension remains on the table and the expectation both in the boardroom and at London Colney is that the Frenchman will sign it, although that is unlikely to be before the end of the season.

The Gunners boss, who retains the unwavering support of the board led by majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, has publicly maintained that he has given his word that he will sign the £7.5 million-a-year agreement that is on the same terms as his current deal.

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Chief executive Gazidis, who is based in the club's Highbury House offices adjacent to the Emirates Stadium, made the journey to Colney on Monday for what were believed to be routine discussions.

The board are continuing to plan under the proviso that Wenger will be in command next season, with the club whittling down their priority transfer target list, finalising scouting reports and holding meetings with agents. Equipment has also been bought for the training ground, with the manager fully involved in all the key decisions as usual.

However, there is a growing sense that the outcome of the final month of the season could determine whether Wenger formally commits to a deal that would extend his reign to a remarkable 20 years.

A series of terrible performances have left Arsenal's attempts to qualify for the Champions League in major jeopardy and they needed penalties to defeat second-tier Wigan and limp into the FA Cup final, where they will face Hull City.

Wenger is believed to have been struck by the toxic atmosphere in the stands in recent weeks as Arsenal supporters grow restless at the endless marquee-match setbacks on top of the nine-year trophy drought.

There have been a series of occasions in the last six months when there has been a signal from within the club that Wenger was about to formally sign the new contract but, each time, the manager made a U-turn and put his future beyond this season, when his current deal expires, on hold.

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The feeling now is that Wenger will wait to see how the season pans out before putting pen to paper.

The uncertainty has repercussions for his backroom team, who have also been offered new agreements that mirror those of the manager and run until 2016. The key assistants include Primorac, assistant manager Steve Bould, first-team coach Neil Banfield, goalkeeper coach Gerry Peyton and fitness coach Tony Colbert.

Senior medical and technical staff have also agreed deals that run until 2016, while more junior members of Wenger's backroom team are on 12-month rolling contracts.

It is understood the agreements are all in place and only need to be formally rubberstamped but Primorac, Tony Colbert and Peyton are all likely to leave should Wenger make the shock decision to call time on his Arsenal tenure.

The Gunners are in fifth place in the Premier League as they prepare to host West Ham on Tuesday night and attempt to overcome their two-point deficit on fourth-placed Everton.

Unusually, Wenger decided not to put on a full training session on Monday a day before the match, with the players undergoing a relatively light workout due to the slew of injuries that have ravaged the squad.

They were due to reconvene at London Colney for an activation session on Tuesday, with Wenger due to assess the fitness of his players before selecting the team.

One good piece of news is that Laurent Koscielny has been passed fit and is expected to return to the starting line-up after three-and-a-half weeks out with a calf injury. Tomas Rosicky has also passed a fitness test after missing the Wigan victory.