Arsenal chief executive says firing Wenger not an option

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The Independent Football

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis today lashed out at Arsene Wenger's critics and insisted that his position is not under threat despite the club's poor start to the season.

After five Barclays Premier League matches, Arsenal have managed just one win - against Swansea - their worst start to a season for 58 years.

The Gunners had to endure the humiliation of an 8-2 hammering at title rivals Manchester United and they also lost to strugglers Blackburn on Saturday - a result which saw them drop to 17th in the table.

Wenger has come under mounting criticism from fans following his inability to hold on to Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer and critics have noted that the Gunners boss has looked increasingly strained of late.

But Gazidis insists that the 61-year-old is still as determined as ever to lead the Londoners to success and is adamant that he has the full backing of the club's board.

"Arsene is not a broken man. He did not suddenly become a bad manager or somebody who became out of touch with the game. It is complete nonsense," Gazidis said.

"(Sacking him) is a route we are not going to go down.

"To see him portrayed as some kind of idiot is profoundly damaging, not to Arsenal or Arsene, but for the game."

Wenger became the only manager to win a Premier League title with an unbeaten team in 2004, but has not won a competition in the last six and a half years.

They came agonisingly close to winning some silverware last term when they reached the Carling Cup final but they were defeated by Birmingham, who then went on to be relegated to the npower Championship.

Gazidis says Wenger understands why the club's supporters are unhappy but has urged them to be patient in their demand for success.

"Arsene is frustrated, he shares the same frustrations that we all do," said Gazidis, who was speaking at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London this morning.

"The potential is very high but we have found self-inflicted ways not to achieve that full potential and that is why he is deeply frustrated.

"If you look at the last six years when we haven't quite got over the line for a trophy, if we hadn't had the potential to do it

"That is something we need to correct because the potential is there.

"That is the frustration I think Arsene is wrestling with but he is absolutely not broken. He is as focused on delivering success to this football club as he has ever been."

Much of Arsenal fans' ire against Wenger concentrates on his refusal to pay big transfer fees.

The Frenchman prefers to spend money on signing young players and watching them develop into top performers.

While this policy has achieved some success, many Arsenal fans are frustrated with it given there were no big-name signings to replace Nasri and Fabregas, and their main rivals like United and Manchester City regularly paid out big fees this summer.

Wenger only succeeded in bringing in Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun but Gazidis insists the hierarchy at the club back Wenger's frugal approach.

"Our strategy continues to be to focus on young players. We know we can't go out and compete with the spending that's out there and frankly, if we did, it would just push the spending to another level so it wouldn't be a successful strategy," Gazidis said.

Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, who bought a controlling stake in the club in April, backs this policy and the manager himself, Gazidis added.

"He is very supportive of the self-sustaining model and of Arsene Wenger," Gazidis said.

"Throughout the transfer window, he was intimately involved in the discussions that we were having, understanding the strategy and giving his support to it.

"I think Arsene and I and the people at the club are very well supported by a good experienced owner."

Kroenke, who owns American football, ice hockey and basketball teams, has come under fire for not attending an Arsenal game this season.

The American entrepreneur rarely speaks to the media - a move which has led to him being labelled 'Silent Stan' - but Gazidis insists the tag is unfair.

"The Silent Stan moniker is overused," he said. "The truth is that Stan is not silent. He has been very involved throughout and for a number of years with the club.

"He is not media adverse either - at the right time he will come and speak.

"He has been limited by what he can say by the takeover panel along the way but he is very personable, very interested in sport and had tremendous ambition for his teams.

"Stan has said that he will talk to the fans the next time he is in the UK and he will."

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