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Conte culpable in uneven season

By ESPN Staff

Arsenal board not contemplating Wenger departure

Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman believes manager Arsene Wenger will stay with the club for at least another eight years - but scotched suggestions the Frenchman would be handed a seat on the board.

Wenger has been an instrumental figure for the Gunners since arriving at the club in 1996 and is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the world.

• 39th game proposals

But his future came in for intense scrutiny when close ally, and former vice-chairman, David Dein departed in August 2007.

He has since guided the side back to the summit of the Barclays Premier League and with the club's latest financial figures - profits are up to £20million for the six months ending November 2007 - buoyed by improved broadcasting deals and revenues from the Emirates Stadium, he now looks set to be at the helm for the long term.

Edelman, meanwhile, is not even considering Wenger's departure in the near future.

'I don't think it's something we're contemplating at this juncture. He has just the other day announced he has a hunger to go on forever.

'He won't go on forever, that's an exaggeration on his part, but I don't think it will be my problem.

'I've got another seven or eight years to go (at the club) and it won't be my worry.'

But on the subject of Wenger being elevated to boardroom level, a step which some would consider a natural development for a man whose involvement in the club's affairs is comprehensive, Edelman was clear with his reservations.

'He's pretty busy as manager at present. He does attend board meetings, he is a participant to our meetings but he is terribly busy,' he said.

'To put that extra responsibility on him when he is running the team - it's unfair to do that. There are lots of responsibilities of directors and extra work and we want him to focus (on the team) at the moment.'

Edelman also insisted that there was be no imminent threat of a takeover from Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, whose Red and White Holdings company have been steadily increasing their stake in Arsenal.

Dein sold his shares to the steel billionaire's investment company when he left last August and is now chairman of Red and White.

His presence means rumours of a buy-out, with Dein subsequently restored to power, abound but Edelman believes a lockdown agreement between other shareholders mean that is a non-starter.

'We were always advised by them that they would build their stake to 25% but we have a lockdown which makes us bullet-proof and that's a word I've used before.

'We watch what they do and we make announcements when they go each extra percent but it's business as usual.

'We have stated our objectives are to play good football, to look after our fanbase and to make a profit and the current board are delivering on all those objectives.'

  • 39th game proposals

    Edelman also confirmed Arsenal have yet to decide if they will pledge their support to the so-called 39th step and has called for a period of sober analysis.

    FA chairman Lord Triesman yesterday conceded the plan was not 'sustainable' in its current form, but Edelman wants judgement to be reserved until more details are knows and backed a fact-finding initiative to assess its feasibility.

    Edelman said: 'Where we see the situation is the following: the Premier League came forward with a proposition.

    'That proposition was for a 39th game and their request was would we all support a detailed review of the proposal? We support that review and that's where we sit today.

    'When the detailed review is finished, when they have presented that and we've consulted the football family we'll be in a position to have a view on it.

    'I still don't know if we'll vote for it.'

    While there have been pockets of support for the plan - Sunderland boss Roy Keane and Birmingham chairman David Gold were initial advocates of the proposal - the majority of football clubs have been sceptical, with some of the suggested venues also offering only lukewarm responses.

    But Edelman believes there has been a general lack of consideration and wants it to be put up to more strict analysis before any decision is made.

    'I do think a lot of people are making snap comments on it and not thinking it through strategically,' he added.

    'They're not making analytical comments, they're making emotional comments. It's a very serious issue and needs to be dealt with in a very serious way.

    'The fact that we have millions of (overseas) fans, millions more offshore than in the UK, that is the germ of the intent - to give those fans more than a televised product.

    'That's the impetus behind the idea the Premier League came forward with. We need to sit back, look very carefully and do the analysis.'