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By ESPN Staff

Gunners picture muddy after Dein leaves club

The long-term future of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been left uncertain following the shock departure of his biggest ally vice-chairman David Dein because of 'irreconcilable differences' with the rest of the current board.

Dein, 63, has left the club and will cease to be a director with immediate effect.

However, the former Football Association vice-chairman holds around 14% of shares in the parent company of the Gunners, estimated to be worth around £57million.

A statement from Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood read: 'On behalf of the board I would like to express our gratitude to David Dein for the many years of loyal service he has given to the club.

'We sincerely regret that irreconcilable differences between Mr Dein and the rest of the board have necessitated a parting of the ways.'

Those differences are understood to be over the direction and ownership of the club, with Dein known to be very much in favour of the involvement of American billionaire Stan Kroenke, which put him at odds with Arsenal director Danny Fiszman and also Hill-Wood.

Speculation continues surrounding a potential takeover from American-based Kroenke Sports Enterprises, who recently bought just over an 11% stake in the club - which included a small holding purchased indirectly off Fiszman, who maintained he was unaware of the buyer.

Hill-Wood, however, maintained the board would be 'horrified' to see complete ownership move across the Atlantic.

Should the KSE group - which has interests in several successful sports US clubs - obtain a 30% threshold in Arsenal, then under the Stock Exchange rules, the American tycoon would be able to launch a takeover bid of the Barclays Premiership outfit.

However, tonight's statement from Arsenal continued: 'In light of recent speculation with regards to the ownership of the club, the remaining board members, who together own 45.45% of the issued share capital of the company, would like to reassure the supporters, shareholders and employees of Arsenal Football Club that they remain long-term holders of their interests in the club.

'To this effect, they have entered into an agreement not to dispose of their shares for at least one year and have confirmed that they intend to retain their interests on the expiration of this period.'

Dein - currently the chairman of the G-14 group of elite European clubs - was behind the appointment of the then little known French coach Wenger to the manager's job in 1996.

The pair remain close friends, with the Gunners having enjoyed unprecedented success in the last decade with three Premier League titles and four FA Cup wins.

Arsenal reached the Champions League final last season, losing to Barcelona in Paris, but have struggled to sustain such success this term.

A run to the Carling Cup final was followed by an early exit from both the FA Cup and then Champions League.

However, successive wins this week have put the Gunners back on track to finish in the top four again and with it secure elite level European football at the £357million Emirates Stadium - crucial to the continued financial stability of the club.

Wenger, 57, is out of contract in 14 months time, and as yet no formal talks have opened over extending his stay.

The Arsenal boss insisted it was business as usual following the news of Kroenke's investment.

Whether that stance continues following tonight`s news remains to be seen.