UNDER-FIRE Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has issued a thinly-veiled rebuke to Alisher Usmanov, the club’s second largest shareholder, for breaking ranks and publicly criticising the team.
Russian billionaire Usmanov, who owns 30 per cent of the Gunners but is not on the board, accused Wenger of failing to learn from his mistakes after Saturday’s defeat to Manchester United compounded recent slips against Swansea and Anderlecht.
Wenger, whose team will qualify for the Champions League knockout stage for a 15th successive season if they beat Borussia Dortmund tonight in London, suggested Usmanov had betrayed the club’s values.
“In the 18 years I have been here I have shown that I can take criticism. Everybody has the right to have an opinion,” said the Frenchman.
“Having said that, we have values at this club. The first one is when we go through a difficult patch, we show solidarity. That is a very important one. The second one is that, when you have something to say to each other, we say it face to face. We don’t need to go to the newspapers.
“I don’t take [it] personally at all. But when you’re from this club, you’re from this club. You’re in or out, you cannot be both. We know the rules of the game, we know how it works. What is important is how close we are together inside the club and how much we can respond to people who question our quality.”
A draw this evening could book Arsenal’s place in the last 16, if Anderlecht fail to beat Galatasaray, while even defeat against the Germans will suffice if there is a draw in Belgium.
Wenger is without midfielder Jack Wilshere, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and forward Theo Walcott for the penultimate group fixture, but defender Laurent Koscielny is available after seven weeks out.
Dortmund may top the group but are gripped by a domestic crisis, having won just three of 12 Bundesliga games this season to sit third from bottom.