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Arsene Wenger clever over exit talk, but Arsenal fans sense change is needed

It's an unfortunate fact of the last decade that Arsene Wenger has become rather proficient at dealing with difficult news conferences. He has, after all, had plenty of experience.

Nevertheless, the manner in which the embattled Arsenal boss dealt with his latest one was particularly impressive. By declaring his intention to continuing coaching next season, he has temporarily shifted the focus onto the fans and his employers.

London Colney was busier than usual, with plenty of journalists descending on Arsenal's training ground wondering if they might witness Wenger's abdication. Suffice to say, the vultures were left disappointed. Not only did he deflect questions about his future to focus on the forthcoming FA Cup tie with Sutton, but he also declared that he is far from ready to leave the managerial dugout.

"No matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it's here or somewhere else. That's absolutely for sure," he said.

That statement comes as something of a surprise. The expectation was that Wenger was facing a straight choice between staying at Arsenal and retirement. He has now opened up the intriguing possibility of him popping up elsewhere next season.

Perhaps it's an empty threat. The prospect of starting a new project at nearly 68 would surely be a daunting one. Even the ultimate veteran coach, Bobby Robson, was two years younger when he took up his final position at Newcastle in 1999.

Whatever Wenger's ultimate plan, this latest statement is a tactic designed to make the Arsenal fans question their desire to see him move on. "You'll miss me when I'm gone" is the clear subtext, and his allusion to interest from elsewhere is an attempt to show he remains in demand at the top level.

There probably would be suitors for Wenger. Paris Saint-Germain have barely hidden their admiration, and were it not for Unai Emery's resounding 4-0 win over Barcelona this week, the links to Wenger would be stronger than ever. Alternatively, perhaps it won't be long before he is linked with taking over from the struggling Luis Enrique at the Nou Camp. Imagine the consternation and confusion among the Arsenal fans if they found themselves knocked out of the Champions League next season by Arsene Wenger's Barcelona -- with Mesut Ozil operating as their key playmaker?

The Football Association would be tempted and frustrated by Wenger's availability in equal measure. Several times, England's governing body has sought to appoint the Arsenal boss as the coach of the national team, yet they've always been thwarted. Having just handed Gareth Southgate the reins, it's unfortunate timing for the FA.

When Wenger's position comes under threat, his first recourse is often to talk about the offers he's fielded from elsewhere. It's a natural response, and an attempt to prove his value. He is on the defensive.

By insisting he plans to continue, he effectively gives the fans an ultimatum: Accept me, or force me out. If he is to leave Arsenal, he wishes to construct a narrative that suggests he had no alternative. Wenger also told the media: "Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game in the future."

It's a stark warning against what he perceives as the short-term views of those who fill the Emirates Stadium.

Nevertheless, one news conference is not going to halt the tide of consensus. The general opinion will surely remain that if Wenger really does want to continue managing, perhaps it would be best if he did so away from Arsenal. The club would surely benefit from a fresh perspective and a "new manager bounce." Perhaps a change of scenery would help restore Wenger to something approaching his former self.

It's not unusual for him to threaten Arsenal with the fact that he may be wanted elsewhere. What's new is that it no longer troubles the Arsenal fans quite so deeply.