Monday 11 December 2017

Arsenal board to blame for Van Persie exit, says Usmanov

Robin van Persie of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
Robin van Persie of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

The splits at the top of Arsenal deepened yesterday after Alisher Usmanov, the second largest shareholder, joined captain Robin van Persie in launching a public attack on the club's strategy.

In a wide-ranging and scathing five-page letter, Usmanov accused Arsenal's directors of selling the club's best players and replacing them with cheaper alternatives.

He also expressed his "deep reservations" about the policy of majority owner Stan Kroenke, which he claimed was causing players to question their futures and the club's ambitions.

The timing of the letter, less than 24 hours after Van Persie's announcement that he would not sign a new contract, could hardly have been worse.

The club, however, maintain that they are fully committed to a self-funding approach which, they argue, will secure both their long-term future and ultimately also offer the best chance of success.

This view is evidently not shared by Usmanov or Van Persie, who has now admitted that he disagreed with Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis "on many aspects" of how the club should move forward.

Wenger will now seek urgent talks with Van Persie to determine whether the situation is retrievable. Arsenal's official stance is that they are "confident" Van Persie will see out a contract which does not expire until next year but his release of such a provocative statement, without warning, clearly makes this very difficult.

Although no club can match Manchester City's financial firepower, it is understood that Van Persie is also attracted by interest from both Juventus and Manchester United.

There is pressure to resolve the situation over the next fortnight, given that Van Persie is scheduled to lead Arsenal on their pre-season tour of Asia, beginning on July 21.

Arsenal have already spent £24m this summer on signing two new strikers in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud but Wenger will also hold a meeting with his scouts next week to determine his other priorities.

Cause

Usmanov, who owns just under 30pc of Arsenal, made it clear that he regards the debt that was acquired from building the Emirates Stadium as the root cause of the club's recent failure to win trophies and keep key players happy.

With his business partner, Farhad Moshiri, he has long-called for a rights issue that would release share equity to pay off a debt that peaked at £318m in 2008 and now costs the club around £14m a year in interest. That would require an extra financial commitment from existing shareholders, primarily Kroenke and Usmanov.

"It is down to our manager and not the shareholders to have to deal with the club's tight finances, carry the burden of repaying the stadium debt by selling his best players and having to continue to find cheaper replacements," said Usmanov.

"This policy is leading to the loss of our best players, often to our main competitors, and even causes the players themselves to question their future at the club and the club's ambitions. The situation with our captain and outstanding performer from last season, Robin van Persie, sums this up.

"Yet again we are faced with losing our true marquee player because we cannot assure him of the future direction and give confidence that we can win trophies."

Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy last summer. As well as Van Persie, Theo Walcott is now into the final year of his contract and the subject of interest from both Chelsea and Paris St Germain.

"You can try and put a good face on a bad game for as long as you want, pontificating about the merits of this model, but it will not hide the obvious fact that it just does not allow our great manager (Wenger) to fully realise his managerial talent and deliver success for the fans who are paying the highest prices in the land," said Usmanov.

He also claimed that securing a place in the Champions League "will be the pinnacle of our ambition again next season" and warned that, in the future, "we may see this ambition lowered further". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport