Crisis? What crisis? Arsenal boss Wenger dismisses financial fears as he sets up two deals

By ROB DRAPER and DANIEL KING

Last updated at 10:48 12 May 2008


Arsene Wenger has dismissed

talk of an Arsenal crisis as he prepares

to make two new signings in

the next three weeks.

But a group

of shareholders, worried by the

departures of managing director

Keith Edelman and key midfield player

Mathieu Flamini, will this month write to

the board demanding answers to a series of

pointed questions about the club's future.

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Wenger wants to bring in a midfielder

and a centre-half by the end of the month

and Valencia's Carlos Marchena is among

his targets.

He said: 'At the moment, the vibes

coming out of the club are as though it

might implode, but it's not like that at all.

We're very stable and in a financially very

good situation.

'I will be a busy man this summer.

I know what I want and I'm very

confident. We should sort out the

deals in the next two or three weeks.'

Despite the loss of Flamini to AC

Milan and the claim from Alexander

Hleb's agent that the Belarus

midfielder wants to leave the

club too, Wenger has challenged

his players to stay and

fight for next season's title.

'I have the feeling that we are

not far away and I hope it is

shared by the players,'

said Wenger.

'The real test we

face is whether we

are strong enough

to say: “Ok, we

missed out this

year. We came

very close and if

we are winners

we will come

back and do

it.” That's what I expect from my

team. I think the core of the team is

ready to fight.'

Hleb, who is wanted by Inter

Milan and Barcelona, appears

determined to leave despite

Wenger's bullish comments

about fighting to hold on to

him.

He must hand in his notice

to Arsenal by Monday, May

26, if he wants to terminate

his contract

under the new

Webster Ruling,

which allows

players to buy

out the remainder

of their deals.

He risks being

banned from football if he fails to

act within 15 days of the end of the

season.

Hleb's commitment may be in

doubt but Wenger has an ally in

striker Robin van Persie, who

believes his manager's policy of

balancing the books in his transfer

dealings and playing attractive football

will eventually have its reward.

Van Persie said: 'I am 100 per cent

convinced we will soon win big

trophies. When that happens, I know

the whole world will be behind us. It

will be a lasting memory if we win it

with our style of play.

'We started great, but at the last

hurdle we did not make it. We were

very unlucky. Against Liverpool in

the Champions League, we were

more or less in the semi-final six

minutes from the end. We get one

unfair penalty against us and we are

out of the Champions League.

'Should we put all our philosophy

and vision on the way Arsenal play

overboard because of one lousy

penalty? I don't think so.'

But the Arsenal board will this

month receive a letter from a loose

affiliation of small shareholders who

believe the club need a change of

direction after three seasons without

a trophy if they are to compete

effectively with their rivals in

England and Europe.

The season-ticket

holders, all of whom once

owned significant stakes in Arsenal,

believe only a serious problem could

have triggered Edelman's surprise

exit at the end of last month, barely

a year after vice-chairman David

Dein was forced out by his fellow

directors.

Arsenal last night denied

allegations from another source that

Edelman's departure was directly

linked to the loss of £15million-rated

Flamini on a free transfer, pointing

out that Ken Friar, not Edelman,

took on Dein's role of overseeing

transfers and contract negotiations.

But the concerned shareholders

suspect that a problem in Arsenal's

cash flow, perhaps relating to the

property developments associated

with the Emirates Stadium, is

restricting the club's ability to compete

with their rivals in transfer fees

and wages, causing players like

Flamini and Hleb to look elsewhere.

They will write to the board this

month asking them to explain in full

the reasons for Edelman's exit and

to respond to specific queries about

the club's finances.

Arsenal's stance is that Flamini's

wage demands were too large to be

accommodated within their wage

structure and that their most recent

financial results show they have a

wage bill of the same magnitude as

Manchester United and the

resources to make big-money

signings if Wenger so chooses.

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