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Arsenal chief Stan Kroenke: why sacking Arsene Wenger would have been the EASY

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Speaking exclusively on the eve of the Gunners’ AGM, the US businessman insists their manager of 21 years remains the “right guy” for the job.

Stan Kroenke has insisted Arsenal took the harder decision in standing by Arsene Wenger.

Majority shareholder Kroenke claimed it is “easy to change coaches”, but says manager Wenger remains the “right guy” and is “more focused” than ever on winning major trophies.

The 68-year-old Frenchman, who has been in charge since 1996, came under severe pressure last season amid a fierce fan backlash. But Arsenal stood firm and gave the Frenchman a new two-year contract after he won the FA Cup for a third time in four seasons.

Kroenke, in a rare exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror before the club’s AGM on Thursday, said: “Arsene is strong, he’s focused and I think he showed through all that.

Arsenal fans at West Brom last season calling for Wenger AND Kroenke to go (Image: Action Images via Reuter).

“We always evaluate, and it’s fair to look at all the factors involved. But when you make decisions like that, you are weighing lots of different factors, but you hope that you weigh them correctly and come out with the right decision. I think we did.

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“It’s easy to change coaches and people do it all the time. But the hardest thing is to replicate success and remain competitive.

“You have to approach it with clear-headedness, calmness, thinking for the long term rather than the short-term. An easy answer is it’s easy to do something. It’s harder not to do something.

“Arsenal is a great club – it’s been here for 130 years. We talked earlier about what a great club it is.

“When you have someone that passionate, when you get one who has really demonstrated that level of excellence – a good character – do you say: ‘Hey, we should get rid of him or we should make a change’?

“They have truly demonstrated a level of excellent throughout many many periods of ups and downs – because there are always going to be them. This is competing at an extremely high level.

“I think both sides have to get comfortable as they move forward. It takes both sides, not just us.

“I’m sure he was thinking through if he wants to go on. If I see anything, then I think he is more focused than ever – when I’m around him. Focused on winning. I really think I do see that more than ever. He wants to win these things.

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“He’s really focused and really smart, he wants to win the things we are talking about.

“We have dealt with this a lot in different organisations and we just think that Arsene is doing a great job and he’s the right guy.

“We have a lot of respect for Arsene — we are not going to be pushy about things. I think he treated us with respect as well and always has.

“We feel really strongly about Arsene.”

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, Stan’s son, added: “I think it speaks volumes as to who Arsene is as a manager.

“Obviously there was some adversity the club was facing at different points.

“But, coming down the stretch, when there was an extreme amount of adversity from an external standpoint, on the players, on the club, on Arsene, the group came together and really rallied down the stretch not only for themselves but for Arsene.

“I think three out of four FA Cups is pretty darn good.”

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FIFA President, Infantino tests positive for COVID-19

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FIFA Chief, Gianni Infantino has contracted coronavirus popularly known as COVID-19,  the world’s football governing body announced on Tuesday.

According to the information scooped from AFP, the 50-year-old has mild symptoms and will remain in isolation for a further 10 days.

“All people who came into contact with the FIFA President during the last few days have been informed accordingly and they are being requested to take the necessary steps,” the body said.

“FIFA sincerely wishes President Infantino a speedy recovery,” it added.

Infantino’s last public appearances was at FIFA’s Compliance Summit which ended on October 16 when all attendees were present via video.

Cases, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 in the body’s base, Switzerland, have doubled from one week to the next throughout October.

The country’s government is expected to decide Wednesday on new measures to control the spread of the virus.

The spread of the illness has cast doubt over Wednesday’s potential meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the Champions League after the Juventus attacker tested positive for the illness earlier this month.

 

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Barcelona: Real reason for Messi’s u-turn

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Lionel Messi said on Friday he will stay at Barcelona, insisting he could never go to court against “the club of his life”.But he launched a stinging attack on Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, accusing him of going back on an agreement to let him leave for free at the end of last season.

“The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he didn’t end up keeping his word,” Messi said in an interview with Goal, released on Friday.

“I thought and we were sure that I was free. The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not and now they hold on to the fact that I did not say it before June 10 when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for the league in the middle of this shitty virus and this disease that altered all the dates.”

Messi, 33, added: “And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club… because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the 700-million-euro release clause.

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“This is impossible, and then the other way was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, that gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here.”

Messi had said he wanted to leave the club he joined as a boy after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August.

His lawyers sent a burofax stating his intention to go for free on August 25 but Messi says he had made his feelings clear to Bartomeu many times before.

“I told the club, especially the president, that I wanted to go,” said Messi. “I’ve been telling him all year. I believed it was time to step aside.

‘Everything became difficult’

“I believed that the club needed more young people, new people and I thought my time in Barcelona was over, feeling very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.

“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new goals, new horizons.

“It wasn’t because of the Champions League result against Bayern, I had been thinking about it for a long time. I told the president and the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not end up keeping his word.”

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Despite his unhappiness, Messi insists he will give his all for Barcelona next season under their new coach Ronald Koeman, with his current contract due to expire in June next year.

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Messi set to quit Barcelona

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Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he wants to “unilaterally” terminate his contract with the Spanish giants, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barca a fax in which they announced Messi’s desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause.

However, the club maintains the clause expired in June and he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.

“In principial, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.

“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros.”

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” the club.

“The end of the glorious era of Leo Messi at Barcelona seems to be close. After the arrival of Ronald Koeman, what looks like the exit of his friend Luis Suarez and a difficult and turbulent end to the season, Messi told Barcelona in a fax of his intention to leave the club,” said Once radio station.

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Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon earlier this month, resulting in the dismissal of coach Quique Setien after barely six months in charge.

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