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May 21, 2013

Gazidis: Arsenal targets haven't slipped

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has responded to accusations that the celebrations following the Gunners' top four finish in the Premier League on Sunday confirmed that the club's targets have slipped under Arsene Wenger's guidance.

• Mangan: Arsenal do enough
• Limbert: Fourth isn't a trophy

The joyous scenes at the final whistle and the jubilant reaction in the dressing room after Arsenal pipped local rivals Tottenham to Champions League qualification has been highlighted by former players and pundits alike as evidence of diminishing ambitions, yet Gazidis insists the club's chief priority is winning trophies.

Speaking on behalf of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and the club's board, Gazidis stressed the targets for the club were not satisfied by securing a place in the qualifying round of next season's Champions League.

"It is important to reiterate that for everyone at the club, qualification for the Champions League is not our ultimate ambition," stated Gazidis, in a statement on the Arsenal website.

"Our majority owner Mr Kroenke has made it clear that while it's an achievement to make the Champions League, our ultimate objective is to win the major trophies. We all share that clear ambition and will be driving the club forward to achieve it.

"One thing is certain. The club is in a very strong position to move forward and our form of losing just one of our last 16 Premier League matches shows that we have a solid foundation on which to build for success."

Gazidis confirmed he has already held discussions with manager Wenger looking ahead to next season, as he paid tribute to the club's supporters who have been among his fiercest critics during his time as the club's boardroom leader.

"The backing the supporters have given Arsene and the team both at home and away has been extraordinary," he added. "We are already looking forward to being back at Emirates Stadium in August for the start of the new campaign. Arsene and I have been planning what we need to do to strengthen so we are better placed next season."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has urged the club to realign their focus on winning trophies, as he joined the chorus of disapproval following Sunday's euphoria at St James' Park.

"Without doubt, I would swap a trophy for fourth place any day of the week, whatever Wenger may have previously said," said Wright in a Sun newspaper column. "Eight years and counting for a piece of silverware is simply not good enough.

"Some people will say Arsenal's celebrations at Newcastle were a bit over the top and I understand why they may feel this. It looked as though they had just won the Premier League title rather than finished fourth.

"You could argue that the team seemed pleased with mediocrity. It is a sign of the times. Arsenal are nowhere near Manchester United and I think the club's fans have now accepted this."

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