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Dec 14, 2012

Thierry Henry crucial to Arsenal future

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has emerged as a pivotal player in a power battle that could be about to take hold of Arsenal.

• Mangan: Wenger facing crucial six weeks
• Dimond: Gunners must target Pep
• Brewin: Wenger still all-powerful

Major Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has claimed he is in regular contact with the Gunners' all-time record goal scorer and has hinted that he will be given a prominent role at the club if the current board allow him to have a greater influence on events at Arsenal.

Usmanov has broken his recent silence to suggest he is eager to transform the structure of the club, with Henry viewed as a central figure in his plans to lift Arsenal from the gloom that has descended on the club since their Capital One Cup defeat against League Two side Bradford City on Tuesday night.

"I don't have any power in terms of decisions at the club, but there are a few Arsenal players whom I am in contact with and my favourite is probably Thierry Henry," he told L'Equipe. "Thierry should already be a part of the club but not as a player. He has another role to play, a more important role.

"Take the example of Patrick Vieira at Manchester City. He is also a symbol of Arsenal, but he is helping another club. We have to avoid that happening with Thierry.

"The presence of a champion can radically change the feel of a team. That is what Thierry Henry showed last year when he came back to Arsenal."

Usmanov's Red and White Holdings owns 29.9 per-cent of Arsenal, yet American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke is refusing to work in tandem with the Russian-based billionaire and has used his 66.7 per-cent stake at the club to halt his rival's march on power.

Former Arsenal shareholder Nina Bracewell-Smith is among those now lambasting Kroenke and she offered some outspoken views in a Twitter exchange with irate fans on Thursday evening.

"If making money was the motivating factor, surely there are better ways," Bracewell-Smith wrote. "Football is a business of passion and SK [Kroenke] has no passion for AFC. Why he wanted to be a part of AFC, I don't know."

According to the most recent edition of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Usmanov has an estimated net worth of £17.3 billion, making him the 39th richest person in the world, well ahead of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in the rich league.

However, manager Wenger and his board have shunned Usmanov's advances and have instead remained loyal to a policy that they will run the club within a prudent financial structure, much to the chagrin of an increasingly vocal clutch of the club's followers.

The public debate now raging over the future of Arsenal on and off the field is unprecedented during Wenger's 16-year reign as manager, with the French tactician likely to be caught in the crossfire of a boardroom battle that may be looming large.

Wenger has been heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, while reports in the British newspapers on Friday suggest he is also a target for Real Madrid as they prepare for the anticipated departure of Jose Mourinho next summer.

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