Wenger rescues Arsenal AGM, but angry fans grow restless
Champions League qualification is better than winning the League Cup says Gunners manager
ARSENE WENGER succeeded where his players have failed in recent days by putting in a decent performance to win over a sceptical crowd at a tense Arsenal AGM at the Emirates Stadium today.
But even after his rousing speech, cheered by shareholders, his assertion that qualifying for the Champions League is still more important for the club than winning trophies will stick in the craw of success-starved Gunners fans.
Before Wenger spoke, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was forced to counter a suggestion that he was "ruining the club" by putting club finances before success as he, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were given a rough ride by obviously unhappy supporters.
Before the meeting satirical leaflets asking fans "Ever get the feeling you're being ripped off?" were circulated.
Feelings ran so high that the panel "threatened to lose control of the frustrated crowd," according to Metro. And The Independent said there were "heated exchanges between the top bench and the floor".
When it was Wenger's turn to speak he began by apologising for the lacklustre defeat to Schalke the previous evening, and then outlined his team's priorities.
"For me there are five trophies: Premier League, Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is the FA Cup and the fifth is the League Cup," he said. "Players ask: are you in the Champions League? A new player doesn't want to know if you have won the League Cup."
He urged fans not to "go overboard" in their criticism of the club, and after his speech was given a warm round of applause.
However the Evening Standard noted that his "rallying cry" was "different from previous years in which he has often asserted that the Gunners’ long wait for a trophy will end imminently".
And for many observers it felt as though the panel had delivered the same platitudes that they hear every year, and the pledges of "jam tomorrow" are starting to wear thin.
"A complete lack of trophies since 2005 is often held up as the main reason for fan discontent at Arsenal but, while admittedly a potent source of shame for proud followers of a club with a long history of success, this is not the case," said Liam Twomey on Goal.com.
"Rather, it is the fact that the Gunners faithful are being forced to pay the highest ticket prices in Europe for ever-diminishing returns while the board fail to reinvest in the team, giving rise to the suspicion, rightly or wrongly, that they are lining their own pockets."
The cold financial focus of the board does not help. "What really rankles with fans is the lack of attachment that it seems some of the key men at Arsenal appear to have to the club, especially when compared with supporters," said Sam Limbert on ESPN.
"The fans put such emotional - and in some cases financial - investment into Arsenal Football Club, that they understandably want those at the top of the club to show the same kind of passion and desire to see it succeed."