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 By Kevin Palmer

Alisher Usmanov: Arsene Wenger's age, principles holding Arsenal back

Billionaire Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has cast doubt over the controlling influence manager Arsene Wenger has at the north London club, and hinted the Frenchman's age may be a factor in his struggle to mount a title challenge.

Arsenal fell 15 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea after just 12 games of this campaign as Manchester United recorded a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with Usmanov joining the debate over Wenger's future at the club.

In an interview with CNBC, Usmanov described Wenger as "a great man and a great coach" and stated he should be given time to turn around the club's fortunes, but he suggested the 65-year-old Frenchman is not solving problems that have undermined his team's hopes for several years.

"Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest coaches not just of European but of world football," said Usmanov, who owns more than 30 percent Arsenal, but has been denied a place on the club's board of directors.

"But we have a Russian proverb which goes: 'Even an old lady can have a roof falling on her.' Everybody makes mistakes. He can make mistakes and I know as you age that it is more difficult, more challenging to accept one's mistakes. Maybe it's a problem today.

"I like Arsene for his principles, but principles are a sort of restriction. And restrictions are always lost possibilities. That's why sometimes coaches even without principles became the coaches of great teams and some coaches with principles lose because some positions in team are vacant because of ethical, moral or personal views.

"Does he have money or not? There is officially money in the club. How does he spend [it]? This decision investors have left with him. I wish them victories, because their victories are the victories of investors, including myself, and of great Arsenal fans, which deserve these victories.

"My opinion -- and I tell it openly -- we need to strengthen every position to play on the level of such teams in [the] U.K. as Chelsea and Manchester City, in Europe like Real [Madrid], Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, [Bayern Munich] and other clubs."

Saturday's home defeat to United saw the Gunners slip 15 points behind league leaders Chelsea.

Usmanov went on to confirm he was "not happy" with Arsenal's failure to build on their potential and challenge for major honours, as he claimed lessons are not being learned from errors that have resurfaced time and again.

"The potential of the team is there, but there is no critical evaluation of own mistakes and their admittance," he added. "Not a single genius can retain its level when he does not admit [his] own mistakes. Only when you admit your mistakes do you get rid of them.

"I wish this to my club. Nothing wrong, but we just repeat [the] same results year by year. Quite high to secure the place in the Champions League, but we regularly lose in the first circles of playoffs. As an investor I am not happy with that."

Usmanov also expressed his annoyance at his lack of influence at Arsenal, as he pointed out that he will have no say over the future of Wenger or the direction of the club moving forward despite his huge shareholding.

"First of all I decide nothing in this matter," he added. "This a strange position when the second biggest investor, who has more than 30 percent, decides nothing and it is frustrating. Although I have a great respect for the president of the club."

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