Gazidis: Wenger's job is safe at 'role model' Arsenal

Chief executive leaps to under-fire manager's defence and says their approach is the future

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The Independent Football

The Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, yesterday resolutely defended the club's direction, claiming that most clubs would "absolutely die" to be in their position, and that they were a "role model" for others, before confirming that manager Arsène Wenger was still secure in his job.

Having delivered no trophies since 2005, Arsenal's self-sustaining model is under more criticism than ever before, but Gazidis spoke both of its success and also Stan Kroenke's commitment to it.

The last few months at Arsenal, losing important players and matches, have been so difficult that Wenger said earlier this month that it would prepare him for "going to hell".

Last night, Wenger looked set for another torrid time when League Two club Shrewsbury took the lead at the Emirates in the Carling Cup third round. It required goals from Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun to clinch a 3-1 win.

The recent setbacks have led to discontent among Arsenal fans unprecedented during Wenger's reign, but Gazidis said yesterday that other clubs would envy Arsenal's state. "Most football clubs would absolutely die to be in our position. Almost every club would."

Gazidis insisted that, in the hope of matching Arsenal's consistency and stability, other clubs were mimicking their approach. "My view is that Arsenal represents the future of the game, I certainly hope it does," he said.

"And Arsenal is in a space that other clubs are trying to migrate towards. So the number of clubs around the world that look at Arsenal as a role model for what they want to become is dramatic. And this is where clubs are trying to get to: into a space where they are self-sustainable, where they can look to the future with confidence, relying on their own resources and standing on their own two feet."

Kroenke became Arsenal's majority shareholder in April, but has been rarely heard since. Gazidis reassured fans yesterday that this was not because of a qualified backing for the current operation. "Stan Kroenke is very supportive of Arsenal's self-sustaining model and of Arsène Wenger," he confirmed, before emphasising his engagement with the club. "Before he took the ownership position, he's met with fan groups, a number of them, and he will continue to do that when he next visits the UK. He's not somebody that pushes himself into the limelight, but he's not the 'Silent Stan' that you might imagine, he's very personable. Where he comes alive the most is talking about sports."

This lack of public pronouncements from Kroenke did not concern Gazidis, who was pleased to work with a low-key owner. "He will have a public persona but I don't think he will push himself forward to be a high-profile public figure," Gazidis said, "I don't think that's why he's into Arsenal, and I'm glad that he isn't. I'd rather have an owner who was quietly supportive, who was prepared to speak publicly, that's the kind of owner that I welcome."

As well as expressing his satisfaction with Kroenke, Gazidis made sure to emphasise the security of Wenger's position at the club. The loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in August, the four points from five League games and dramatic defeats to Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers have all led to questions over the manager's future.

"There's absolutely no issue about Arsène leaving the club, or the club pushing him out," said Gazidis. When questioned why the club was so loyal, he said it was to do with their future stability, rather than merely a reward for years of success.

"It's not a sentimental thing," Gazidis added. "One of the most damaging things that clubs do to themselves is the constant turnover that we see in managers. Somehow the belief that good managers can become bad managers, that leads to a lot of instability, and to clubs not being able to achieve the kind of success that Arsenal has had. You don't throw something like that away easily, and if you do you're a fool."

Gazidis believes making a knee-jerk decision after their poor start would cause more problems than it solved. "I think if this club were to give up the fundamentals that have made it so strong we would do ourselves much more damage," he said.