Arsenal must stop selling if they are to win trophies, says shareholder Usmanov
12:59 GMT, 28 September 2012
Arsenal major shareholder Alisher Usmanov has warned that the club's trophy drought will continue if they keep selling their star players.
The Gunners have not won any silverware since 2005 and lost captain Robin van Persie and key midfielder Alex Song to Manchester United and Barcelona respectively last month.
'Nobody can convince fans that the club is doing fine if for the past three or four years the club has been selling its best players,' Uzbek-born Usmanov said. 'It doesn't matter who our extremely talented coach, Arsene Wenger, buys to plug these holes if we want to win trophies.'
Gone: Van Persie left Arsenal for Manchester United this summer
Usmanov, whose Red and White Holdings vehicle holds just under 30 percent of the club, has criticised Arsenal's board for selling leading players. But he has backed Wenger, who has been at the club since 1996.
'I'm an absolute fan of Arsene Wenger,' Usmanov said. 'I support him and I'm confident in him. We think he's a hero.
'Despite changes in the playing lineup, he keeps the variations of the same beautiful game.'
Usmanov also has a box at Chelsea – who Arsenal meet on Sunday – and he revealed that he and Blues owner Roman Abramovich talk about 'football and beauty' on match days.
Usmanov says that he cares about fans' views, and enjoys having an incognito drink in a Holloway pub near Arsenal's new stadium where 'no one recognises me'.
Fan: Usmanov spoke of his admiration for Wenger (above)
He and partner Farhad Moshiri, who have built their position in Arsenal since 2007, are at odds with US billionaire Stan Kroenke, who owns just over two-thirds of the club.
Usmanov recently criticised Arsenal's board in an open letter for failing to hold on to van Persie. He called for Arsenal's finances to be strengthened through an injection of non-dividend-paying equity into the club.
'Arsenal received our letter,' said Usmanov. 'We didn't mean it as a hostile message or a declaration of war.'
However, Usmanov does not want to be on the board himself.
'We are tired of being accused of fighting for a place on the board,' he said. 'We have never in our lives asked for this place.'
Usmanov does not plan to write another letter at this point as it would be a distraction while the club tries to win games.
Powerbroker: Usmanov speaks at his home in Moscow
'The season is beginning – we must close this discussion and support the club, coach and players,' he said.
Arsenal's third-place finish in the league last season was enough to guarantee them a place in the Champions League for the 15th successive season.
'I never say we need to spend enormous money for any players but we must have capacity,' said Usmanov, when asked whether UEFA's planned Financial Fair Play measures mean that teams must cut losses or face exclusion from European competition.
Usmanov said he loves the club and holds his investment as 'a fan… who has participation as a shareholder.' He has no plans to sell, declaring 'if you sell what you love you lose yourself'.
'For now, we stay in Arsenal as shareholders as long as we don't lose our love for this club. Now we wish it support and great victory.'