Arsene Wenger is finally prepared to bring the curtain down on his 21-year reign as Arsenal manager, Daily Mail reports.
Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke remains staunchly behind the underfire manager and would prefer Wenger to sign a new, two-year contract at the end of the season.
But behind the scenes at the Emirates, there is a growing belief that Wenger will leave.
Wednesday night’s embarrassing 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich is seen as a watershed moment in Wenger’s tenure.
Sportsmail has learned the loss sparked a heated dressing-room inquest led by senior players in Munich.
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also seen berating his team-mates’ apparent lack of effort on the pitch during the mauling.
Wenger is well aware of the divisions in the club’s fanbase, with a growing number of supporters convinced he should walk away.
There is virtually no possibility of Wenger quitting before the season ends. He is determined to stick to his vow of never breaking a contract.
But with his existing deal due to expire at the end of the season, Wenger knows signing a new deal — particularly after another season without a trophy — would only intensify the ill-feeling from supporters who once idolised him.
Arsenal could still win the FA Cup, with a place in the quarter-finals likely as they face non-League Sutton United in the last 16 on Monday night.
Wembley glory and a top-four finish could yet convince Wenger — who will be allowed to decide his fate — to sign on.
But sources claim Wenger’s mood has become subdued as his side’s title hopes fade. The club have started the process of identifying replacements for Wenger, who said on Wednesday night that he would decide his future in ‘March or April’.
Sportsmail understands Arsenal’s decision-makers — led by chief executive Ivan Gazidis — want a manager in Wenger’s mould if he does leave.
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone would represent a high-profile appointment, but his fiery temperament has led to reservations among the Arsenal board.
Certain figures at the Emirates believe Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino would represent the perfect fit but, given his allegiance to Arsenal’s arch-rivals, the chances of such a move seem non-existent.
Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Juventus’s Max Allegri would fit the profile Arsenal are looking for.
With Wenger, 67, one of the last ‘managers’ overseeing the entire footballing operation of his club, Arsenal could appoint a technical director when he leaves.
Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil’s agent believes the German was unfairly blamed for the chastening defeat in Munich. Dr Erkut Sogut told the BBC: ‘Mesut feels people are using him as a scapegoat.
‘Eleven players were on the pitch but Mesut was singled out for criticism.’