Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov believes it is essential the Premier League club retain long-serving manager Arsene Wenger.
The 66-year-old will celebrate 20 years in charge at Arsenal this September but has come under increasing pressure from a section of the club’s fan base over recent weeks.
Arsenal last won the Premier League title in 2003-04 and watching this season’s bid going awry to hand surprise leaders Leicester City the initiative has been hard to take for some of the Emirates Stadium faithful.
But Usmanov, who recently took sole charge of his 30 per cent stake in the club – second only to majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – feels an immediate future without Wenger is not something worth considering.
In an interview with Russian state-owned television channel Russia-24, he said: “Arsenal’s results are stable. They are always among the leaders of the English Premier League. This is a good and large sports business project, and I am pleased with it.
“The only thing is that today such situation occurred, like in any sport, there are ups and downs. The club must retain its major symbol and main asset – manager Arsene Wenger.
“Failures have been haunting Arsenal for many years now, they cannot become the EPL champions. This has led to some discontent with Wenger’s position as a manager.
“I believe that Arsene Wenger is a great coach, and Arsenal has to give him the opportunity to plan the succession process and leave his legacy when he deems it necessary.
“It is very important for the football club to maintain the principles that were established by those people who created its victories. Arsenal needs Arsene Wenger.”
Last August, Usmanov sympathised with Wenger’s plight during a nine-year trophyless run that took in the club’s move to Emirates Stadium from Highbury.
“Arsene had a very, very difficult position when club shareholders didn’t want to put their money into constructing the new stadium,” he told CNN.
“Because of this, he went maybe the best of his career without a trophy.”