Belfast Telegraph

Wenger - We won't shirk a battle

Arsene Wenger has warned the rest of the Barclays Premier League his Arsenal team are "up for a fight" as they look to battle back into the top four.

The Gunners boss used Thursday's address to the club's Annual General Meeting to launch an impassioned plea for everyone to unite behind a squad which has slowly recovered form following the most testing spell of Wenger's 15-season tenure - including an 8-2 loss at Manchester United and slide down the Barclays Premier League table.

"The team is on the right way, it has a fantastic attitude and spirit," said the Arsenal manager, who spoke for more than 10 minutes at the end of what had been a sometimes spiky meeting where majority shareholder Stan Kroenke gave his first speech since completing a takeover.

He added: "Where we will finish at the end of the season? Frankly, I don't know. But I know just one thing that these players we have at the moment are ready for a fight, because I see them every day and they are ready to have a go."

Wenger maintained he could "understand the fear and discontent" of some supporters, but stressed: "Trust us, this team has qualities, this team will fight - and if you help us to do that I think we will have a successful season."

American billionaire Kroenke had first joined the Arsenal board in 2008, but living up to his nickname 'Silent Stan' had made few public statements over his vision for the club amid the stringent rules of the Takeover Panel.

However, after obtaining a controlling stake of more than 60% in the Gunners' parent holding company earlier this year following the purchase of shares from the late Danny Fiszman, the Denver-based sports magnate revealed he was relishing his involvement at a club which had "all the elements" for success.

He said: "[The club] has tremendous management at the top, a wonderful manager on the pitch who makes great decisions in regard to personnel, and a tremendous following with the supporters."

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis assured the AGM that the club were actively seeking new commercial deals and Arsenal were moving forwards on a "sound financial platform". There were, however, some heated exchanges between long-serving chairman Peter Hill-Wood and the floor, with one shareholder calling for his resignation.

Hill-Wood also maintained Arsenal were "comfortable with the constitution of the board" when questions of formal representation for Red&White Holdings - now the second largest stock owners and backed by Usbek oil magnate Alisher Usmanov - were raised.


From Belfast Telegraph