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Supporters’ group crank up the pressure on under-fire Arsenal board

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Thursday, February 21, 2013
1:06 PM

The Arsenal board need to look at themselves rather than just the issue of Arsene Wenger’s future at the club when they meet today, according to a supporters’ group.

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Arsenal appear on course for an eighth trophyless season in a row, but despite that Wenger’s job does not appear to be under threat as he still has the support of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and the club’s other directors.

However, the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) has called for the board to reassess their own role in the team’s success and create a more challenging environment.

“At the meeting today the board must review its approach to much more than just the position of Arsene Wenger,” an AST spokesperson told Press Association Sport.

“The board needs to consider recruiting new members with exposure to the football world who can support and challenge Wenger to be a better manager.

“It’s wrong to focus on just him at the moment. Every single non-executive director of the club is over 70 years old and it is time for some fresh blood. We would call for Stan Kroenke to meet with (second-largest shareholder) Alisher Usmanov to work out how to make it stronger.”

The Gunners’ trophy cabinet has been empty since 2005 when they lifted their last piece of silverware, the FA Cup, and this season looks set to end without success.

Arsenal were knocked out of the Capital One Cup in a penalty shoot-out by League Two side Bradford in December, were beaten by Championship side Blackburn at home in the FA Cup last weekend, and their Champions League campaign has been left in tatters following a 3-1 defeat at the Emirates by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Wenger’s side also face an uphill struggle to secure a Champions League place for next season as they are currently in fifth place, four points behind great north London rivals Tottenham.

However, AST insisted now is not the time to assess Wenger’s performance, but plans must be put in place to improve the structure of the club for the coming season.

“Our position is that we review the manager at the end of the season,” the AST spokesperson said. “The board must ask hard questions about itself and not just the manager.

“AST members are not happy with the current situation. We think the club needs to review how they scout, recruit and pay players as the current approach is creating a depreciation in competitiveness.

“It is time for Kroenke to show to Arsenal fans some of his vision, to end his silence and to engage properly with them.”

Wenger has managed Arsenal since 1996 and has led them to three Premier League titles, four FA Cup titles and four FA Community Shield wins.

The Frenchman is under contract until 2014 and it is understood the club does not want to sack him even if they fail to qualify for the Champions League next season.

However, the supporters’ group remains concerned by the club’s plans for making them more competitive next season, despite improved television revenue and the first instalment of a shirt sponsorship deal contributing to a fund of around £70million for new signings.

The AST spokesperson added: “We would also like the board to be more accountable for the transfer budget available to the manager and make sure it is spent on players and not just used as profit.”

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Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners.

Ground: Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,361).

Founded: 1886.

Honours: First Division (until 1992) and Premier League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004.

FA Cup: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005.

League Cup: 1987, 1993.

Fairs Cup: 1970.

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1994.

Leading goalscorer: Thierry Henry, 228.

Leading appearances: David O’Leary, 722.