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Is Wenger changing ?

Arsenal want Jamie Vardy: A change of strategy by Arsene Wenger?

Does Arsenal’s interest in Jamie Vardy suggest a change of approach by Arsene Wenger? It’s a signing that has echoes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to sign Robin van Persie ahead of his final season as Manchester United manager, writes Adam Bate.

Sat in the Old Trafford dressing room in the week after seeing his side beat Swansea with a customary late winner, Sir Alex Ferguson had an announcement for his Manchester United players. With a 13th Premier League title secured, he would be bowing out as a winner.

Robin van Persie was among those dismayed. The player described by Ferguson as his “final major transfer buy” and the “leading light” of his last campaign at the helm had previously been told by the Scot that he had no plans to quit. But Van Persie’s very arrival was the clue.

A fee of £24m was a significant sum for a 29-year-old. The Dutchman duly delivered one more top-class season but it was enough to win Ferguson and United the title. Perhaps Arsene Wenger, the man who sold the striker, recalls the lesson.

Jamie Vardy is 29 too and not the sort of signing Wenger has favoured. Indeed, the Arsenal manager has never paid more than £10m for someone of that age. So his decision to opt for Vardy could be evidence of a change in approach; an acknowledgement that the time is now.

Wenger is in the final year of his contract with Arsenal. He is the longest-serving coach in Europe, having been in his job more than twice as long as any other professional manager in England. But at 66 there can be no guarantees of an extension.

The pressure valve was released somewhat as Arsenal edged above Tottenham on the final day of the Premier League season, securing their first second-place finish in over a decade. However, the unease among sections of the club’s support remains.

Wenger, despite his reputation for stubbornness, is not immune to the criticism. His stoicism should not be confused with indifference. Although the motivations, by his own admission, have changed over the years, he still wants to win. Perhaps now, he also needs to win.

The challenge will be tough in 2016/17. Chelsea will surely be stronger and both Manchester clubs are likely to be galvanised by high-profile new managers. Arsenal must improve and have already addressed concerns over the makeup of their midfield by signing Granit Xhaka.

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