London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted Thursday that his hunger to win trophies with the Gunners was “bigger than ever”, despite revealing his performance will be subjected to an annual review.
Wenger came under unprecedented pressure last season as Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League and many fans voiced their desire for him to leave after 21 years in the job.
But the veteran French boss eventually signed a fresh two-year contract following Arsenal’s FA Cup final win over London rivals Chelsea.
But Premier League defeats by Liverpool, Stoke and Watford this season led to renewed questioning of the 68-year-old’s position.
However, a 5-2 victory over Everton on Sunday, allied to reaching the League Cup quarter-finals and a perfect record in the Europa League, have led some fans to turn their anger away from Wenger and towards an Arsenal board headed by American businessman Stan Kroenke.
“I must tell you, my hunger, my commitment is bigger than ever,” said Wenger when speaking to Arsenal shareholders during the club’s Annual General Meeting at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
“But I accept that of course when you have been at the club a long time, everybody questions that. I question myself a lot, don’t worry, to be better every single day.
“And I will sit down every year with my board to see where I go from there.”
Wenger, asked to explain his comments in more detail at a subsequent press conference, replied: “I am 21 years at the club and I want to feel that I do well, and see what the board thinks of my performance.
“After that we decide where we go from there. But of course my desire has always been to respect my contracts.”
– Wenger ‘the right guy’ –
Wenger had earlier received the unequivocal support of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke who declared he was doing a “great job”, even though Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2004.
“He’s the right guy,” Kroenke told the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph in interviews published Thursday.
“I think he is more focused than ever. Focused on winning. I really think I do see that.”
Shareholders at the AGM voted against resolutions to re-elect chairman Chips Keswick and Josh Kroenke — Stan’s son — to the Gunners’ board.
The votes, however, did not succeed given Stan Kroenke had already used his 67 percent stake to back the re-appointment of the duo.
Some 200 shareholders turned up in person to hear from Wenger, Keswick and chief executive Ivan Gazidis.
Keswick defended a payment of £2.6 million ($3.4 million, 2.9 million euros) to Gazidis despite Arsenal’s failure to reach the Champions League after finishing fifth in last season’s Premier League, saying he was doing a “fantastic and first-class job”.
Unhappy fans have given Kroenke the unflattering nickname of ‘Silent Stan’ because of his supposed lack of communication.
The sports entrepreneur has also been accused of being solely concerned with Arsenal’s profitability rather than pursuing major honours such as the Premier League and Champions League, with the Gunners yet to lift the European Cup.
But Kroenke, who owns several sports teams including the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, said there was no question of him selling his Arsenal stake.
“We get into these things to try to grow them,” he said. “You don’t see us selling things. You just don’t. We are committed long-term.
“I love Arsenal, love being involved with Arsenal,” the 70-year-old added. “There’s no finer feeling than going out and winning like we did with the FA Cup.”
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