Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has expressed his dismay at the clubs direction once again, stating that the ‘footballing landscape has changed’ and the Russian billionaire believes Wenger and his side will be left with fewer opportunities to strengthen in the future if there isn’t change.
The Gunners begin their eighth season since winning a trophy this month, and although the club have splurged approximately £40m bringing in the likes of Podolski, Giroud and soon-to-be-announced Cazorla, Usmanov feels this spending and investment needs to be made permanently and with it a change in philosophy.
The 58-year-old owns 30 per cent of the club, and remains the second largest shareholder after Stan Kroenke, but still does not have a place on the board with Arsenal’s hierarchy preferring to stick with the clubs self-sustaining model rather than allowing a billionaire to pour cash into the transfer kitty like Chelsea, City etc.
Usmanov issued an open letter last month expressing his concern over the direction, ambition and management of the club, and in his latest interview the Russian businessman aired his opinions once more and maintains he will continue to buy more shares in the clubs he loves dearly.
He told Forbes Magazine Russia:
Disregarding the series of trophyless seasons, you have to accept that a few of the current board of directors were at the helm during the greatest moments of the Arsene Wenger era.
But the footballing landscape has changed. Our point of view on which direction the club is going today, and our disagreement with this direction, have been laid out in our open letter to the board.
We do not consider just qualifying for the Champions League to be the chief ambition of the club, and with all our hearts we support the team and wish them well for the new season.
Victory is absolutely not ruled out, but the current politics of the club’s management will leave Arsene Wenger and his team with fewer and fewer opportunities in the long run.
Arsenal were one of the first teams I saw on television, and at that time I started supporting them.
I was introduced to David Dein by a mutual friend. At that time I was looking at a number of possibilities to invest in Premier League clubs, but the chance to buy a small shareholding in Arsenal outranked all other considerations.
When I bought shares off David Dein I was happy with the opportunity to get to know the footballing legend which Arsenal represent. I was absolutely satsifed with this purchase and wanted to buy more shares in the club.
At that time I never imagined the depth of conflict between the shareholders.
I was also disappointed, and very much regretted, that Danny Fiszman, who at that time ran Arsenal, dealt with me on the basis of totally unobjective opinions and assertions of a few individuals.
We plan to continue to buy shares in the club.
From the point of view of investment, this has already been a successful policy: the value of the club has risen from £300-400 million to £700-800m.
But this is not the point. I am a fan and I am not going to sell these shares at any time, since this is the club that I consider the best in the world.
Love him or hate him, you have to agree with Usmanov’s attitude towards the club’s lack of silverware. The past couple of season’s it has felt like the squad over the summers have been prepared and reinforced (or lack there of) to fight for a Champions League spot in the Premiership rather than to win the trophy. Yes Wenger will be aiming to top the league and win a Cup, but he can only do so much as key players leave summer after summer and cheap mediocre players are brought in as replacements.
Last season the club’s board seemed extremely satisfied with reaching the top three, but that was mainly due to the disastrous start to the season, however the combination of the poor performances, financial issue in regards to paying RvP top wages and hopefully Usmanov’s opinion has helped kick the Gunners board into gear a little.
They have admitted that they must restructure the player wages so that Arsenal can retain star players and pay them the money that they deserve, and also money has finally been invested in the squad without the loss of any star players (yet..fingers crossed RvP stays for this season).
So are times changing at the Emirates? I hope so, it seems like they are beginning to and maybe one day Usmanov can invest his millions in some top quality stars to supplement the homegrown starlets.