MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - There was a weary look and sound to Arsene Wenger throughout most of the past season that hinted at an Arsenal manager no longer capable of the dynamism needed to be the best.
But after signing a new two-year deal with the Gunners, having won the backing of owner Stan Kroenke and the club hierarchy, the Frenchman is again sounding like a man with goals that match those of the club’s most avid supporters.
“They are of course unlimited, our ambitions. 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,” he told the club’s website in an interview released on Wednesday.
”The message to the fans is... 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. Of course we’ll try to strengthen our squad to be stronger next season, but we want to be faithful to the way we want to play the game,” he said.
And there, in a nutshell, is the crucial task that now faces Wenger in the coming weeks - how to strengthen his squad, bring in fresh talent, whilst not undergoing a massive overhaul that would require a substantial period of transition.
As rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool can attest, it takes time for new players to settle and it is no accident that the top two teams in the Premier League this season - champions Chelsea and runners-up Tottenham - both had teams that have evolved into stable squads.
Keeping hold of German midfielder Mesut Ozil and Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez would be a good start, but it is clear that there will be players leaving and arriving at the Emirates this close season.
”We have a very heavy squad at the moment so maybe we might lose some players. 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. The basis is there so we need the additions who will make a real difference,” he said.
Players of that calibre are hard to acquire and so the commitment of the club’s owners to investing in talent will be seriously tested - if Wenger is able to persuade such talent to join his project.
Those fans who have called for the Frenchman to leave may fall silent now but if the new talent and improved results do not come quickly, their voices will surely return.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson