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Football | Barclays Premier League

Wenger let down by board - Usmanov

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has not had enough support from the Premier League club's board, shareholder Alisher Usmanov said on Thursday.

The Uzbek billionaire, who has a stake of just under 30 percent but is not on the board, questioned the effectiveness of the London club's commercial strategy in a television interview with CNBC.

"If I have a big stake in Arsenal of course I have my opinion of what we must do," Usmanov said. "For example, on the commercial side, I think there are also many questions about the effectiveness of the commercial management of Arsenal...

"Mr Wenger is one of the best coaches in the world. During the last five years he hasn't had enough support to provide his conceptions of his game from the board."

Arsenal have endured a difficult start to the season and sit fifth in the Premier League, 15 points behind leaders Manchester United. They suffered a humiliating exit from the League Cup at the hands of fourth-tier Bradford City last week.

Wenger has come in for stinging criticism for his role in the club's difficulties with fans questioning a transfer policy that has allowed a raft of top players to leave in the name of financial prudence.

One of the principal criticisms laid at Wenger's feet by fans is that he has failed to hold on to big-name players such as Robin van Persie, who quit the club for Manchester United in the close season, and Cesc Fabregas who left for Barcelona 12 months before.

Usmanov refused to blame Wenger, preferring to direct his criticism at the board.

"I always tell Mr Wenger he is one of the best coaches and football managers in the world but I openly admit he has many, many difficulties to contend with," he said.

"This decision (selling Van Persie) was a mistake. If I was one of Wenger's players I would want to stay for the finish, but he explained (that) Robin wanted to go to win trophies."

Despite being Arsenal's second largest shareholder, Usmanov has not been given a seat on the board.

"I have to say that it is very hard to understand and it rankles me that the current board doesn't want a person who is a 30 percent investor to be on that board. We just don't understand that strategy," he said.

"I have to tell you I don't want to be a member of the board as it is now. It is strange; it's a very strange situation that they do not want the biggest investor on the board. But as I said I am not asking for it.

"So I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm (that) to help the team we would be ready to buy more shares, buy control, buy all shares. That is to say we are ready to do all that we can to help the company in order to consider any form of co-operation or ownership with the team."

Wenger said he had never felt a lack of support from the board.

"I believe I have always had the support from the board, and am very grateful for that," he told reporters ahead of Saturday's match against Wigan Athletic.

Wenger said the club had always worked within its financial resources, adding: "Therefore we made decisions which from outside looked not based on purely footballing reasons, but (were) based as well on financial reasons."


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