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Pressure mounts on Wenger to 'strengthen in every position'

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In tomorrow's Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal will be facing Jurgen Klopp, a manager who is among the candidates to eventually succeed Wenger. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

In tomorrow's Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal will be facing Jurgen Klopp, a manager who is among the candidates to eventually succeed Wenger. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

PA

In tomorrow's Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal will be facing Jurgen Klopp, a manager who is among the candidates to eventually succeed Wenger. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal's second largest shareholder, has offered his most critical assessment yet of Arsene Wenger and claimed that the club need to strengthen in every position to seriously challenge the elite of English and European football.

Although Usmanov says that he wants Wenger to continue his work at Arsenal and is desperate to see him succeed, he has pointedly suggested that the manager is failing to learn from past mistakes and being restricted by his footballing-principles.

Arsenal now face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League tomorrow night knowing that defeat would leave their qualification for the knockout phase in serious doubt.

In Jurgen Klopp, they will also be facing a manager who is among the candidates to eventually succeed Wenger.

Arsenal will be without Olivier Giroud tomorrow but the club are adamant that reports that they somehow forgot to register him are erroneous. They stress that the squad lists for the group phase had to be submitted at the start of September, when Giroud was expected to be absent with his broken leg until January. The judgment call then was not to give him one of the 17 places for non-homegrown players, but Wenger must now wish he had gambled on Giroud returning so much sooner than expected. He is also almost certain to be without both Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szczesny due to injury.

Wenger's poor record against the very best opposition has come into sharp focus following the defeat to Manchester United on Saturday, with Usmanov's critical views seemingly in tune with many Arsenal fans.

"We need to strengthen every position to play on the level of such teams in UK as Chelsea and Manchester City or in Europe like Real, Barcelona, Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich," Usmanov said.

"Arsenal is a dream that sometimes becomes a mirage and sometimes a pain as every dream.

"The potential of the team is there, but there is no critical evaluation of mistakes and their admittance. Not a single genius can retain its level when he does not admit his own mistakes. Only when you admit your mistakes are you rid of them. We just repeat the same results year by year.

"Quite high to secure the place in the Champions League but we regularly lose in the first circles of play-offs. As an investor I am not happy with that."

Asked if Wenger still had his backing amid calls from some fans for him to leave, Usmanov said it was "frustrating" to have no say over such a key decision despite owning 30pc of the club.

Usmanov has not been offered a place on the board and has never spoken to the majority owner, Stan Kroenke, since losing a battle for control.

"Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest coaches not just of European, but of world football," he said. "But we have a Russia proverb which goes: 'Even an old lady can have a roof falling on her.' Everybody makes mistakes. He can make mistakes and I know as you age that it is more difficult, more challenging to accept one's mistakes.

"Maybe it's a problem. He is a great man, a great coach, he had great victories and he has to have an opportunity to secure the place, which he and his team ought to have."

Usmanov, though, fears that Wenger's principles have become a restriction on the club.

"I like Arsene for his principles. But principles are sort of restriction. And restrictions are always lost possibilities," he said.

"That's why sometimes coaches even without principles became the coaches of great teams. And some coaches with principles lose because some positions in team are vacant because of ethical, moral or personal views."

Wenger is also facing criticism from the playing ranks, with Lukas Podolski again voicing his dissatisfaction at his lack of opportunities and Joel Campbell known to be unhappy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent