Wenger: I can see your fear but give us support

Arsenal manager asks shareholders to remain patient as club fights during 'difficult times'

Arsène Wenger has told Arsenal's fans he understands why the club has been consumed by fear and discontent after a summer in which two of his best players departed, but insisted his transfer policy will be vindicated if his current team is granted the time and support to fulfil its potential.

Click HERE to view graphic (175k jpg)

The 62-year-old made an impassioned plea for unity in front of more than 300 shareholders at Arsenal's Annual General Meeting at the Emirates Stadium yesterday lunchtime, pleading for an end to the scepticism and negativity which has engulfed the club after a disappointing start to the campaign.

Though the Frenchman stopped short of predicting that Arsenal would retain the Champions League place the club has occupied for 14 consecutive seasons or end their six-year wait for a trophy, he called on fans to withhold judgement on the players he signed this summer to fill the gaps left by Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and outlined his conviction that his team has the "attitude and spirit" to ensure a successful year.

"I can see a lot of fear, even discontent among you and I can understand that, because we live in a world where we fight with people who have extremely high resources," said Wenger. "I heard we lost two world-class players [in the summer] and I agree with you. We lost even more.

"But do not judge the players we bought too quickly because I think they are top, top level. And I would remind [you] that [there have been] some world-class players who have arrived here in an August and not played before a September or November and have only become world-class after that.

"The basis of our team and its potential is right. I am much more positive than [most] people are. We do not get the credit we deserve. The team is on the right way, it has a fantastic attitude and spirit, and we are capable of competing.

"Where will we finish at the end of the season? Frankly, I don't know. I know just one thing: these players are ready for a fight. Not many people at the moment are behind us, but I believe we can be a positive surprise.

"I am convinced we can qualify for the Champions League again. It is time to realise that, while times are more difficult, we can still be successful if we all stand behind the team."

In an address lasting almost 15 minutes – in place of his usual question and answer session with shareholders – Wenger, like chairman Peter Hill-Wood, reaffirmed his and the club's commitment to a self-sustaining model.

Though Hill-Wood was at pains to point out that funds remain at Wenger's disposal should he wish to strengthen his squad, he admitted the club would not match the "vast" sums being spent by "certain other clubs" in a bid to close the gap on Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Indeed, Wenger confessed that last summer's 6.5 per cent hike in ticket prices – making Arsenal the most expensive club to watch in Britain – was necessary simply to finance the club's £124m-a-year wage bill, the fourth highest in the Premier League.

"I know in the modern world ticket pricing is a problem," he said. "But just to keep the players we have, we must put our wages up so high that the financial situation becomes more and more difficult for us. It is just a decision that gives us a chance to keep our players and unfortunately it is the real situation we face at the moment."

Wenger remains confident that his highest earner, Robin van Persie, will agree an improved package to augment that bill further, but he insists frugality is the right path to follow.

"The way we can compete is to try and be intelligent," he said. "But we have to be united too because it is very difficult to be consistent in football."

That is an area, Wenger feels, in which Arsenal are above reproach. "We have been more consistent than anybody else in the world in the last 15 years," he said. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis reiterated the message: "Only Manchester United and Real Madrid can match the consistency of our record of 14 consecutive Champions League appearances," he said.

That is under threat now, of course. "Arsèn''s statement that Europe is the limit of his ambition is evidence the club's economic model is limiting his ability to do the best for the club," said Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters' Trust.

News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine