Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has defended the achievements of his side in recent years and believes Champions League qualification has as much merit attached to it as winning a domestic cup competition, if not more.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were all heckled at the club’s annual general meeting today over the club’s financial strategy and failure to win a trophy since 2005.
However, in his own address, Wenger insisted the club had not stood still in their barren years.
Wenger said: “For me, there are five ’trophies’ – the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask ’did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you ’do you play in the Champions League?’.”
Gazidis had to call order to get the AGM back on track after being accused by one shareholder of “ruining the club” with his financial policies.
Wenger, though, received a warm reception after his address, which had opened with an apology for the recent defeats against Norwich last weekend and Schalke on Wednesday night.
He said: “If everybody is absolutely devastated when we finish third in the league, I promise you I will not be here if you finish 15th one day.
“We did not produce a good performance last night, but let’s not forget it was a first home defeat in the Champions League for 43 games – not many teams do that.
“It is always difficult after a defeat to take a distance with the result and look at the bigger picture.
“This team started in a very dynamic and promising way. We hit the wall in the last two games, which was a bit inexplicable, but the attitude and focus of the team every day is fantastic.
“I believe this team can deliver and I am optimistic we will have a good season and the players will show I am right.”
Much was made of the club’s financial policy, but Wenger stressed for him, it was always about the football.
“My job is to deliver a team with the resources we have, and I have never complained about that,” he said.
“I want a club to pay players from its own resources, there is no shame in that.”
Wenger ended his address with a call for unity.
He added: “We want first to win the Premier League, that is what we are here for and that is what we want to fight for – believe me will give absolutely every drop of energy to achieve that and will do that again this year.
“It is still important that we keep our strength and stay united for the good of Arsenal, sometimes you can forget that.”
Gazidis had earlier said that Arsenal would be able to compete with the world’s biggest and best clubs as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations become more rigorously enforced.
“In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement,” he said.
Kroenke, known as ’Silent Stan’ for being very much in the background, was asked whether dividends were to be paid to shareholders which would mean money being taken out of the club at some future stage.
The American tycoon, whose group also owns US sports franchises the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Rapids, the Colorado Avalanche and the St Louis Rams, said: “This club is run through the board. I have always been respectful of that process.
“Aside from that, as majority shareholder it is clear we have a record in sports around the world.
“We have never put any debt on this club for acquisitions (during the takeover) and never said money was not available to spend.
“We acquire through our own resources.”