Usmanov: Arsenal are in decline

Alisher Usmanov
Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov is less than happy with the club's current direction. Photo: PA

Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has launched another blazing attack on the club's board, saying that their current policies will not bring to an end the Gunners' seven-year wait for a trophy.

In an interview with Russia's Forbes magazine, just weeks after he penned an open letter to the Arsenal board criticising their approach, Usmanov called again for changes to the way the club is run.

"Disregarding the series of trophyless seasons, you have to accept that a few of the current board of directors were at the helm during the greatest moments of the Arsene Wenger era," Usmanov said.

"But the footballing landscape has changed. Our point of view on which direction the club is going today, and our disagreement with this direction, have been laid out in our open letter to the board.

"We do not consider just qualifying for the Champions League to be the chief ambition of the club, and with all our hearts we support the team and wish them well for the new season.

"Victory is absolutely not ruled out, but the current politics of the club's management will leave Arsene Wenger and his team with fewer and fewer opportunities in the long run."

Usmanov also opened up on how he first began supporting Arsenal, and how he came to acquire David Dein's 14.6% stakeholding in the club in 2007 - which he has since increased to some 30%.

"Arsenal were one of the first teams I saw on television, and at that time I started supporting them," Usmanov revealed.

"I was introduced to David Dein by a mutual friend. At that time I was looking at a number of possibilities to invested in Premier League clubs, but the chance to buy a small shareholding in Arsenal outranked all other considerations.

"When I bought shares off David Dein I was happy with the opportunity to get to know the footballing legend which Arsenal represent. I was absolutely satsifed with this purchase and wanted to buy more shares in the club."

But the 58-year-old Uzbek, whose fortune is estimated at some £12billion, revealed that soon after the purchase he came into conflict with the Arsenal board.

"At that time I never imagined the depth of conflict between the shareholders," he said.

"I was also disappointed, and very much regretted, that Danny Fiszman, who at that time ran Arsenal, dealt with me on the basis of totally unobjective opinions and assertions of a few individuals."

Even so, with Usmanov now locked in a seemingly never-ending battle with American Stan Kroenke for the outright ownership of Arsenal, he made clear that he would not be giving up his shareholding, and still harbours ambitions to oust Kroenke.

"We plan to continue to buy shares in the club," Usmanov confirmed. "From the point of view of investment, this has already been a successful policy: the value of the club has rise from £300-400million to £700-800million.

"But this is not the point. I am a fan and I am not going to sell these shares at any time, since this is the club that I consider the best in the world."

Stan Kroenke
Stan Kroenke (centre) retains a controlling stake in the Gunners, much to Usmanov's dismay. Credit: PA

Usmanov also opened up on how he first began supporting Arsenal, and how he came to acquire David Dein's 14.6% stakeholding in the club in 2007 - which he has since increased to just under 30%.

"Arsenal were one of the first teams I saw on television, and at that time I started supporting them," Usmanov revealed.

"I was introduced to David Dein by a mutual friend. At that time I was looking at a number of possibilities to invested in Premier League clubs, but the chance to buy a small shareholding in Arsenal outranked all other considerations.

"When I bought shares off David Dein I was happy with the opportunity to get to know the footballing legend which Arsenal represent. I was absolutely satsifed with this purchase and wanted to buy more shares in the club."

But the 58-year-old Uzbek, whose fortune is estimated at some £12billion, revealed that soon after the purchase he came into conflict with the Arsenal board.

"At that time I never imagined the depth of conflict between the shareholders," he said.

"I was also disappointed, and very much regretted, that Danny Fiszman, who at that time ran Arsenal, dealt with me on the basis of totally unobjective opinions and assertions of a few individuals.

"Also, unfortunately, this entire myth-making, along with Danny Fiszman's shareholding, have been herited by the new controlling shareholder.

In the press it has already been said that there were discussions with Nina Bracewell-Smith [about purchasing her shares], but the likelihood of such a deal is not high. Sadly, it seems to me that she is under permanent (and not very gentlemanly) pressure in the form of promises and threats from Fiszman and the board of directors."

Even so, with Usmanov now locked in a seemingly never-ending battle with American Stan Kroenke for the outright ownership of Arsenal, he made clear that he would not be giving up his shareholding, and still harbours ambitions to oust Kroenke.

"We plan to continue to buy shares in the club," Usmanov confirmed. "From the point of view of investment, this has already been a successful policy: the value of the club has rise from £300-400million to £700-800million.

"But this is not the point. I am a fan and I am not going to sell these shares at any time, since this is the club that I consider the best in the world."

Arsenal's current shareholders:

  • Stan Kroenke: 66.79%
  • Alisher Usmanov: 29.9%