Arsene Wenger 'convinced' Arsenal will contend for title next season
Arsene Wenger remains "convinced" that Arsenal can fight for the Premier League title without him next season -- if they can only sort out their away form.
The Gunners are still without a single point on the road in the Premier League in 2018, falling to their seventh straight away loss at Leicester on Wednesday in Wenger's penultimate game. Arsenal lost 3-1 after Konstantinos Mavropanos was sent off after 15 minutes and a penalty restored Leicester's lead in the 76th.
Their woeful away form have condemned the Gunners to a sixth-place finish in the league -- their worst under Wenger -- but the Frenchman is confident that his successor won't have the same problems.
"I feel that if you look at our season, at home we have had championship-winning form," he said. "Away from home we have had the consequence of many things: a lack of confidence because of a few bad results, and after that we neglected some games because we were in the Europa League.
"The quality is there, the spirit is exceptional. I think if the team has one or two good away results next year, they will play for the Premier League -- I'm convinced because there's something special in that team, which will come out next season. I'm convinced that Arsenal will be one of the top contenders next year."
Not for the first time this season, Wenger took issue with the refereeing decisions that went against his team. Mavropanos was sent off for a last-man foul when he dragged down Kelechi Iheanacho just minutes after the forward had put Leicester ahead.
Leicester were then awarded a penalty when Henrikh Mkhitaryan was adjudged to have tripped Demarai Gray in the box.
"I disagree with the red card because [Rob] Holding would have caught this ball. [Mavropanos] was not the last man," Wenger said. "The penalty is a very creative, imaginative aspect from the referee. We watched it again. It's a nice dive but it's not a penalty."
It was the first setback for Mavropanos, who had impressed in his first two games for Arsenal against Manchester United and Burnley. And Wenger admitted he may have made a mistake by starting the 20-year-old centre-back just three days after the Burnley match.
"I believe when games are very close, it takes so much mental energy at the start of your career that it takes sometimes a bit longer to recover," Wenger said. "Tonight he was a bit surprised by the pace of the game at the start, because he had not completely recovered.
"I had a long thought about playing him straight away again or not. Sometimes you think 'OK, it's going well for him, keep him in.' But I don't think he had recovered."
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had equalised for Arsenal before Vardy converted from the spot and Riyad Mahrez added the third in injury time.
Wenger rested striker Alexandre Lacazette completely while Jack Wilshere missed the game to attend the birth of his child. But Wenger once again said he was confident that Wilshere will still be an Arsenal player next season, even though he hasn't signed a new contract yet.
"The noises I have is that he will do it, but I don't know how close he is to signing the contract or not," Wenger said. "But the noises are positive. I hope that will be concluded very quickly and that he can go to the World Cup with England, and win the World Cup."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.