Arsene Wenger has suggested Arsenal’s top-four fate will not be a decisive factor in regards to his future at Emirates Stadium.
The 67-year-old Frenchman is still yet to announce whether he will remain in charge of the club he has led since October 1996 when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Fan discontent against his reign rose substantially when a dreadful run of form in February and March left them out of the Champions League and distant from the leaders in the Premier League.
Disquiet among supporters remains despite the Gunners securing an FA Cup final berth and winning five of their past six top-flight matches to remain in with a chance of Champions League qualification as the season enters its final week.
Arsenal host relegated Sunderland on Tuesday before welcoming Everton on the final day but will still need slip-ups from Liverpool or Manchester City if they are to preserve Wenger’s proud record of having never finished outside the top four in England.
Irrespective of the outcome and his own future, Wenger expects the club to be building from a position of strength.
“I believe a finish outside the top four will not have any influence in the way the club will be led and how we will behave in the transfer market,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“I know where you want to lead me but I cannot give you that indication [on my future].
“If we finish outside the top four it will be down to one point maybe. That will be difficult to swallow but that should not change completely the judgement of the team.
“You have to keep the same focus to try and strengthen the squad. That’s what the club will do.”
Asked whether the Arsenal board were aware of his final decision, Wenger was familiarly evasive and said: “I just focus on tomorrow’s game.”
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 15, 2017
The assertion that finishing in the top four is akin to winning a trophy is a stick with which Wenger’s critics have regularly beaten him.
When assessing the progress his team have made following their slump earlier in the year, he acknowledged two more wins would leave Arsenal with four more points than the 71 that gave them second place behind Leicester City last time around.
Nevertheless, Wenger was keen to point out that his focus on a prize he last lifted in 2004 remains unwavering.
“It [getting 75 points] would mean that the season has not gone as well as I hoped at the start of the season because I start the season to win the Premier League,” he said.
“When you don’t do it you are never completely satisfied, like everyone else who doesn’t win it.
“As well, it has not been disastrous. What is encouraging is the way the team has developed recently and the way the ambition of the team is back.
“It’s difficult to get points in this league – difficult for everybody.”
Wenger added: “I don’t want to go into conclusions too early but it shows that 75 points is a decent total. I won the championship with 78 [in 1997-98].”