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Sep 26, 2009

Hill-Wood has faith in Wenger over departed stars

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has claimed that Arsene Wenger is a genius at deciding when to sell his big name stars and so was not surprised when Arsenal sold Emmanuel Adebayor for £25 million to Manchester City this summer.

• Hill-Wood: Gunners against quotas
• Fulham v Arsenal - LIVE on ESPN

Hill-Wood, in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with ESPNsoccernet, revealed that he has "no regrets" at losing all the big names sold by his manager - Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires, Mark Overmars, Emmaneul Petit, Freddie Ljungberg, and Sol Campbell among others.

He told me: "Arsene thought long and hard about selling Adebayor. But there were pretty strong rumours last year that he wanted to go. Perhaps it was time to let him go. I don't regret losing him, in fact I don't regret any of the sales made by Arsene, he has pretty good judgement as it has been shown time and time again.

"He doesn't always tell you, i.e. the press, or even me exactly why he is selling them, he might not always give me the reason, but we always back his judgement."

Despite selling Adebayor to a potential title rival, Hill-Wood is quick to defend the Manchester City striker for his antics against his old club. But, equally, he believes Gunners striker Eduardo is in urgent need of defending too, after the recent diving debate.

Hill-Wood argued: "Players' on-field behaviour isn't bad at all. But, of course, there are the odd deviations and because of the intense media coverage, these incidents are always highlighted a great deal more these days than they were perhaps in the past.

"Yes, there have been a couple of these incidents already this season, but they have been relatively minor. They make good headlines and journalists make sure those headlines don't go away easily.

"Take Eduardo for instance, UEFA made a very hasty decision about him without looking at the faces. I must be honest and say a couple of things didn't help his cause, he did fall very dramatically. But the referee had looked at it and gave the penalty. He was asked to look at it again, and he did not change his mind, and I feel that we must support the referees.

"Adebayor lost his head. He did kick out at Van Persie, but nobody was killed, it was bad, and he has got what he deserved. But I do see that it was very unwise to run the length of the field to celebrate his goal and incite the crowd. That was stupid. It attracted a lot of adverse publicity and he has got to live with it, but that publicity was excessive."

Hill-Wood also announced that he wants Wenger to manage Arsenal when he's 70.

Wenger insists he has no plans to retire from football as he approaches his 60th birthday later this month, but now Hill-Wood wants the Frenchman to carry on as long as Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford - perhaps even longer.

He said: "Don't ask me what we would do without Arsene. I don't want to think about it. But I am hoping and, in fact, confident, we will not have to address that for some considerable time.

"He seems happy in his job here, it is very fulfilling for him, and I can see him doing it for another 10 years. But, of course that is up to him. He is showing no signs of slowing down, he's perfectly fit, and he knows perfectly well my feelings about him."

Wenger has 18 months left on his existing contract, as Hill-Wood added: ''If I said, 'Arsene, let's talk about your contract as it runs out in 2011', he would say 'no need, I have other things to think about at the moment.'

"We both know where we stand. I don't want him to leave, but he is very mcuh his own man. I don't think any amount of sweet talking from me will make any difference. He has a nice job here, he is well paid, no interference, he is allowed to get on with his job.

"He doesn't have a President buying players for him and telling him to coach them and also to pick the team for him - he would tell us where to go, if we ever suggested that, not that we ever would."

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