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Gunners owner Kroenke stands by under-fire Wenger

Jeremy Wilson

Published 21/02/2013 | 04:00

Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke
Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke

Arsene Wenger will receive the personal support of Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke when the club's directors digest the resounding Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich at their monthly board meeting this afternoon.

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Tuesday's 3-1 loss has intensified the debate that surrounds Wenger's future, but he retains the unequivocal backing of the club's board and that will be reflected when the Frenchman attends today's meeting.

Kroenke was at the Emirates on Tuesday night, as was fellow billionaire shareholder Alisher Usmanov, and he remains sympathetic to the wider context of Arsenal's current difficulties. Barring a miracle in Munich, this will be the club's eighth successive season without a trophy.

Kroenke, though, has owned leading sports teams for almost 20 years and accepts that Arsenal are in a period of transition after the break-up of the team spearheaded by Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.

He also regards Wenger's wider achievement of 16 consecutive top-four finishes as hugely significant and does not accept that the seasons that have followed the move from Highbury to the Emirates can simply be dismissed as being a failure. Wenger's contract expires at the end of next season and there is no plan to make a change this summer, regardless of whether the club overhaul neighbours Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish.

How Wenger himself might react to a first failure to qualify for the Champions League remains an unknown and he has always said that he would consider his position if he felt that he was underachieving.

His stock remains high across Europe and, should Jose Mourinho leave Real Madrid, he would be a leading target for the Madrid board. Wenger is still confident that Arsenal will secure a top-four finish and, with a transfer budget of £70m this summer, believes that he will be able to add the extra quality this summer needed to challenge for the Premier League title next season.

His budget, particularly in terms of players' wages, would be more restricted if the club failed to qualify for the Champions League and would probably mean that he could make one less major signing.

Arsenal, though, will be financially stronger than ever this summer, owing to the front-loaded Emirates shirt sponsorship agreement and the new kit deal that is being negotiated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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