Arsene Wenger insists there are no limits to Arsenal’s ambitions after he signed a new two-year deal to continue as manager of the Gunners.
The 67-year-old had been widely expected to extend a reign already lasting more than 20 years and confirmation came from the club on Wednesday afternoon – with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and majority owner Stan Kroenke calling for Premier League success.
Wenger had come in for fierce criticism from pundits, supporters and former players during the second half of last season as Arsenal slipped out of the Premier League top four and were thrashed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
But, after a spell of seven defeats in 12 games, Wenger made a tactical shift to a three-man defence.
That helped the club end the season with a run of nine wins out of 10, culminating with their record-breaking 13th FA Cup final success against Chelsea on Saturday.
Despite delivering a seventh FA Cup title during his reign, some fans were still keen for Wenger to depart having not won a Premier League title since the unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season in 2004 and with no Champions League football to look forward to for the first time since 1998.
But Wenger feels Arsenal can achieve anything they set their minds on heading into next season now his future has been sorted.
“They are of course unlimited, our ambitions,” he told Arsenal TV.
“We live in a very competitive world where you need the support of the owner as well. He’s highly ambitious and supportive as well so, on that front, we are all united with exactly the same targets.
“I’m happy and excited. Happy because I can work where I love to be. As well because this club cherishes the values I love.
“I’m excited because I believe that our end of season is a big springboard to go for more.”
Some fans led protests against Wenger by organising pre-match marches, banners carried on planes over stadiums and boycotting fixtures, all in the hope of a new manager being appointed.
But the Frenchman called on Arsenal supporters to remain united, having admitted ahead of the FA Cup final that the uncertainty over his future had created an “absolutely horrendous” atmosphere.
“The message to the fans is in aid of the club,” he said.
“Let’s be together to support our players, to support the club and all give our absolute best to be at the level that we want to be.
“We can move up to the next level, I’m convinced of that, by having faith in the way we want to play football and by supporting the players we have already.”
Focus will now turn to keeping hold of key duo Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, whose own deals expire in a little over a year.
Sanchez hit 30 goals last season while club-record signing Ozil is also reportedly attracting attention from across Europe.
Attracting other top names to the Emirates Stadium will also be seen as crucial if Arsenal’s “unlimited” ambitions are to be met – but Wenger has exacting criteria.
“We have a very heavy squad at the moment so maybe we might lose some players,” he added.
“We want to keep the strength we have and build on that. We will work very hard to find the additions of top, top quality.
“I believe that our squad is very strong and we will only look for top-class people who can strengthen our team now.”
Kroenke, who rebuffed a takeover bid from Russian billionaire and minority shareholder Alisher Usmanov last week, hailed Wenger as the best man for the job as he too targeted more silverware.
”Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe,” he said.
”It’s what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won’t rest until that is achieved.
”Arsene is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing.
“The ambition is to put this club in a position where we are winning the Premier League, where we are competing to win in Europe and pushing forward.
“This is not a sentimental decision, this is not a backwards-looking decision, this is all about looking forward. Arsene does not look backwards, and neither does this club. We are looking forward and we are confident about the future with Arsene.”
Usmanov, who does not sit on the Arsenal board and was not present at the meeting with Wenger, put out a statement later on Wednesday calling on the manager to be given the complete backing of Kroenke and the other board members.
“I am pleased that Arsene Wenger will continue to manage Arsenal for the next two years as he is one of the very best coaches in Europe,” he said.
“What is now of paramount importance is that he receives the full support of the board and majority shareholder. He has a great opportunity to deliver the success that the fans deserve and the legacy that his long contribution merits.
“However without the right support there remains a real risk that his legacy will be tarnished. If the support is not forthcoming, we stand ready to step in and do everything we can to deliver success on and off the field.”