Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has launched an attack on the current board for failing to sort out Arsene Wenger‘s future and not having a replacement lined up.
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Russian billionaire Usmanov, 63, owns 30 percent of the Gunners but has been excluded from the board at Arsenal as majority shareholder Stan Kroenke continues to hold the power with 67.05 percent of the shares.
Usmanov, speaking to Bloomberg from Moscow, had the following to say about the current situation as the Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to announce his future plans with the Gunners battling for a top four finish for the 21st season in a row under his guidance.
“I do not think that the coach alone is to be blamed for what is happening. The board bear huge responsibility,” Usmanov said. “Some continuity is needed and this includes the need to prepare for a successor for Wenger. This needs to be done in a very respectful way and I can suggest that Wenger himself prepare a successor. Unfortunately, I am fully isolated from decision-making at Arsenal. All the responsibility for the fate of the club rests with the main shareholder.”
Now, this is interesting.
With Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s CEO, recently attending meetings with supporters groups speaking of a “catalyst for change” and chairman Sir Chips Keswick saying that the decision over Wenger’s future will be “mutual” between the board and the manager, it appears that, at least according to Usmanov, one man holds the key to this decision: Kroenke.
The American billionaire has a hands-off approach when it comes to Arsenal while his son, Josh, also sits on the board as a director but you never hear much from them. Perhaps what is most crucial amid all of this smack talk from Usmanov is that he admits Kroenke calls the shots and we all know Kroenke is a huge fan of Wenger.
After the most recent Arsenal AGM Kroenke said that Wenger “has been a wonderful influence on the club” and added that “we are all very high on Arsene” as well as praising his ability to achieve consistent results.
Kroenke, Arsenal’s biggest shareholder, holds the key. That is clear.
That fact seems to have been overlooked in the past few months when fans have called for Wenger to be fired and have questioned the ambition of the board time and time again. Yet even the “Wenger Out” protests are dying down recently, with a protest scheduled for the home game against West Ham last week canceled due to a lack of numbers.
With Kroenke calling the shots, Wenger is in a very good position. The owner of the LA Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rapids sports franchises in the U.S. is the key man in Wenger’s future with a two-year deal reportedly ready for the 67-year-old coach to sign.
If that is the case, surely Kroenke will keep Wenger and maybe that’s why the Frenchman has been so coy on his future. Perhaps he knows he has the offer on the table from Kroenke no matter what everyone else connected with the club is saying.
Still, if Arsenal fail to finish in the top four this season then maybe Wenger and Kroenke’s plans go out of the window. The next few weeks for Arsenal are pivotal in its future with Wenger, plus Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in limbo with Champions League action in the balance.