We can hold on to stars, says Gazidis

Arsenal chief insists club's wages competitive enough to keep Fabregas and Co
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The Independent Online

Arsenal's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, insists the club can compete with the wages offered by their Premier League rivals. Arsène Wenger's net spending on transfers has been a fraction of that splashed out by Manchester United, Liverpool and especially Chelsea, but Gazidis says the Arsenal approach will pay dividends in the long run.

And although the Gunners have not matched the others in terms of spending on transfers, Gazidis said they do compete in terms of player wages and he expects team members such as Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott to commit themselves to Arsenal for years to come.

Gazidis said: "We believe that the environment we create is very special, that the wages that we pay are competitive and that we will invest money in the squad intelligently and thoughtfully. The stadium generates a lot more revenue to invest in player salaries prudently and player salaries generally have been going up at a dramatic rate at the top end, and so we have had to be competitive with that.

"Arsenal offers good money, it offers a great development programme, a superb environment so it is difficult for me to imagine why players would want to leave. I can't guarantee success because success depends on those very players, but am I confident that I can keep those players and we can make progress? Absolutely, very confident."

Gazidis added that Arsenal were not relying on qualifying for next season's Champions League in terms of their finances, and the players will not have to take wage cuts if they do not qualify.

"Arsenal is not a big gambling club, it is a very conservatively run club. I don't think it has ever been a club that has relied on revenues that are uncertain," he said. "The revenue levels to service the contracts are levels we are comfortable with and those player contracts are at levels that are sustainable for us."

Fabregas is reported to be a target for Barcelona and Real Madrid while Walcott and Van Persie are both in talks over new contracts. Gazidis believes, however, that the current group of young players will stay at Arsenal and kick-start a new era of success at the club.

Gazidis said: "I can't marry the stories that I read with the reality, which is that Cesc is extremely happy at Arsenal and totally committed to the club, and that's every message that Arsène Wenger or I have ever received from him or his representatives. I am very confident that Cesc is committed to the club.

"You never relax about any situation but we are very confident that this team will stay together, progress together and achieve success together. The young players that we have and the manager we have believe we are doing something very special here."

Van Persie and Walcott's contracts both expire at the end of next season, and although Fabregas's stretches until 2014, under international transfer rules he would be allowed to buy himself out of the deal in October, having gone past the three-year mark.

Gazidis also gave a glowing testimony to the qualities of Stan Kroenke, the American billionaire who yesterday raised his stake in Arsenal to just over 20 per cent of the club.

Only Uzbekistan metals magnate Alisher Usmanov's company Red & White Holdings group owns a larger proportion of shares – it has a 25 per cent stake.

Gazidis, who knows Kroenke from his time in the US, said: "He is an excellent owner in the other sports he has been involved in, he has been a good part-owner of Arsenal and an active participant on the board.

"He is a long-term investor who thinks about the sports business very carefully, and philosophically is very close to the traditional Arsenal ethos.

"He believes in the club running itself on a self-sustaining basis and he obviously must have affection for the club otherwise we wouldn't see his shareholding increase."

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