Arsenal’s long nightmare is over.
Arsenal fans cheered wildly when their team won the FA Cup in May, ending a nine-year trophy drought in the process. Gooners received more positive news Tuesday when minority owner Alisher Usmanov declared Arsenal’s days of frugality and on-field failure are in the past.
“The club is very well placed to succeed,” Usmanov told the Telegraph. “I think we begin a new era for Arsenal where we win trophies. That is most important for football. In my opinion, in line with the existing rules, the club has the correct decision-making process in place, including their selection policy, especially now, when they have the means to buy the best players.”
The decision-making process to which Usmanov refers is at the heart of what once was a bitter divide within the club. Usmanov, owner of 30 percent of Arsenal’s shares, was a fierce critic of the club’s self-sustaining business model, which it employed shortly before, during and after its 2006 move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium.
Usmanov and many Arsenal fans fumed because the approach, which a previous generation’s owners birthed and current majority owner Stan Kroenke heartily endorsed, limited manager Arsene Wenger’s (squad-building) resources and prompted a host of leading players to leave the club for greener pastures between 2006 and 2013.
This led to a bitter power struggle between Usmanov and Kroenke, as the former wanted club owners to use their personal wealth to help Arsenal compete with richer rivals and the latter did not.
Kroenke and Usmanov fell out and haven’t spoken since 2007, but Usmanov now characterizes his relationships with other Arsenal board members as “warm” and “good” entering Sunday’s Community Shield matchup with Manchester City.
Having almost paid off the £318 million ($537 million) stadium debt, Arsenal now is attracting higher quality talent by increasing the amount it spends on transfers and salaries.
Last season’s FA Cup triumph signaled the end of Arsenal’s battle for respect. Usmanov’s first Arsenal-related interview reveals the Gunners’ civil war also is over, and Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are the biggest winners.
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