Kroenke: ‘Very high’ on Wenger, ‘very hard’ to re­place

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Rob Har­ris AP Global Soc­cer writer

Arse­nal re­mains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” re­plac­ing the man­ager who is in the fi­nal year of his con­tract, owner Stan Kroenke told The As­so­ci­ated Press yes­ter­day.

Wenger this month cel­e­brated 20 years in charge of Arse­nal and has of­fered no in­di­ca­tion whether he wants to sign a new deal into next sea­son.

The 67-year-old French­man be­came the Pre­mier League’s long­est serv­ing man­ager when Alex Ferguson re­tired from Manch­ester United in 2013. United is now on its third man­ager in three years and has not com­peted for the Pre­mier League ti­tle since Ferguson’s de­par­ture.

In a rare in­ter­view about Arse­nal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson suc­ces­sion at United while dis­cussing the chal­lenge of even­tu­ally re­plac­ing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a com­ment like that,” Kroenke told the AP af­ter Arse­nal’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing. “It’s very hard. He’s a great man­ager.”

Wenger signed his last three­year con­tract ex­ten­sion in 2014.

“We will sit down and dis­cuss the fu­ture at the ap­pro­pri­ate his speech.

Al­though Wenger has won the Pre­mier League three times, the last suc­cess came in 2004 - a drought which frus­trates fans.

“He’s been a won­der­ful in­flu­ence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the ta­ble right now.”

Manch­ester City, Arse­nal and Liver­pool are only sep­a­rated on goal dif­fer­ence at the sum­mit. De­spite Wenger only win­ning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lu­cra­tive Cham­pi­ons League for the 19th suc­ces­sive year thanks to its run­ner-up fin­ish last sea­son. Wenger is yet to win Euro­pean foot­ball’s top prize.

“I know a num­ber of (sports team) own­ers that are very suc­cess­ful that say the same thing - the hard­est thing to do is be con­sis­tently com­pet­i­tive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los An­ge­les Rams. “Arsene has al­ways done that and Arse­nal has al­ways been in that po­si­tion. We have al­ways been com­pet­i­tive.

“We may not al­ways win the things we want to win. We are very fo­cused on win­ning for sure the league. Arsene’s been con­sis­tently at the top and I will tell you - it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”

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