Clubs

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said Arsene Wenger can dictate the timing of his return to the club and that he wants the Frenchman “close to me” in a more official capacity.

Wenger’s 22-year reign as Arsenal boss ended in 2019, officially by mutual consent, but he has subsequently said the manner of his exit “was not my decision” given at the time he still had a year remaining on his contract.

Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League in his final two seasons but his successor Unai Emery only lasted 18 months in charge before being replaced by Arteta.

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During the recent international break, Arteta attended the film premiere of ‘Arsene Wenger: Invincible’ and the Spaniard said: “Well, we have been in communication. I saw him and I talked to him when we went to see the film and it was incredibly pleasant to see him and chat to him and hopefully we can bring him close.

“I think he would have a great time just seeing the environment he can create around him when he is around this place because of the respect, admiration and the love that everybody at the club has for what he has done and as well for what he represents as a person in this club.”

Asked by ESPN what specific role Wenger would be given, Arteta replied: “I cannot tell you now. But what I can say is I would like him to be much closer personally to me because I think it would be a great help, it would be a great help for the club.

“Things take time and I think he has to dictate those timings. What I can say from my side and I think on behalf of everybody, that we would be delighted to have him much closer.”

Wenger is employed by FIFA as head of global development attempting to reform the football calendar and has previously been reluctant to go back to his former club, claiming in May last year: “Would I return to the Emirates Stadium? I always said to myself that I would be leaving Arsenal completely. That’s the decision I made.”

Meanwhile, Arteta hinted Granit Xhaka could return to action ahead of schedule before the end of the year. The midfielder was originally ruled out until January with knee ligament damage sustained in September but has been progressing well in recovery and Arteta said: “Hopefully he will be back a little sooner than expected.

“He is training and pushing himself and all the staff so hard, like he always does. He is in a good place and he’s evolving well. Hopefully we can have him a little bit earlier. We have to see, it’s still a bit early to decide that.”

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