Arsene Wenger faces a career defining April: Arsenal could be back in the top-four and in an FA Cup final or out of Champions League contention
• Arsene Wenger has told Arsenal that he wants to stay for another two years
• His Arsenal side face seven season defining games over the month of April
• They could be back in the top four or tarnish the manager’s reputation forever
• Read: Alexis Sanchez wants to ‘finish his contract at Arsenal’
It may seem ridiculous, but even in the context of Arsene Wenger’s eventful 21 year reign at Arsenal it is hard to imagine him having faced as career-defining month as this coming April.
The Wenger legacy has become a topic for debate, argument and online YouTube series, but Itemsgalore Blog understands that he wants to extend his stay by a further two years by signing a new contract.
And, with Arsenal insisting it will be a joint decision, his and Arsenal’s April could go a long way to deciding whether he deserves a new contract.
Even with their relative travails in recent campaigns, Arsenal are at a low ebb. Once again knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage, they now seem at risk of missing out on a place in Europe’s elite club competition.
That would be a first for Wenger since he joined Arsenal in 1996, and a damaging blow to his reputation.
They are stuck in sixth, six points off fourth spot and even trailing Manchester United by two.
Arsenal do have two games in-hand on Liverpool, who are in fourth place in the top flight, but that is combined with a fixture pile-up that will see them play seven games over April.
They have a chance to close the gap to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who are third, when they take them on at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
The problem is that a defeat against City could see them finish the weekend as low as seventh in the Premier League. Everton travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday and a victory would see the Toffees leapfrog the Gunners and climb into fifth.
City are no scrubs – when the two teams faced one another in December, they fought back from a goal behind as Arsenal collapsed.
Guardiola’s side also tend to play better away from home. They have won 10 of their 14 away games this season, compared to seven of 14 at the Etihad, which means the advantage of the game being at the Emirates may have to be discounted.
They have to play them twice, and the FA Cup semi-final on April 23 could be just as important for Wenger.
A place in the top-four seems necessary, but combine that with a trophy and Arsenal fans would have to dampen down their criticism.
It’s not just City that Wenger has to worry about this month.
A run of games against West Ham, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough sees the Gunners face sides battling to either ensure or save their Premier League status.
Anything but a victory from all three, over a period of just 12 days, would surely see Arsenal’s top-four hopes fall to pieces.
The game against Leicester could be just as important. The Foxes are showing the spirit of last season’s champions under interim boss Craig Shakespeare and will be no pushovers at the Emirates.
And the month all ends with a north London derby at White Hart Lane, one that Wenger cannot afford to lose.
It seems inevitable that Spurs will end a 21-year wait and finish above Arsenal this season, whether or not they win the derby, but a damaging defeat would not be a good look for a manager that wants to stick around.
April will therefore be defining for Wenger. Arsenal could end it in the top four, having taken advantage of their games in-hand, and with a berth in the FA Cup final.
Or they could find themselves well outside of the Champions League places, with no possibility of catching up, and without silverware for the campaign.
Beware the ides of March? For Wenger, it’s more about being aware of the size of April.