Infighting at Arsenal in the stands and the boardroom

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

While Chelsea are silently ruled by Roman Abramovich's iron fist and the fans sing in unison against the comedic stylings of interim manager Rafa Benitez, Arsenal are having troubles of their own as the splintered factions of the club can't seem to agree on how to keep from going backwards.

When Arsenal traveled to Brighton on Saturday, where they managed to edge out the Championship side with a 3-2 win in the fourth round of the FA Cup, a scuffle reported broke out between Arsenal fans. In the 80th minute, with the score still 2-2, several Arsenal supporters held up a banner directed at manager Arsene Wenger that read "Arsene, thanks for the memories but it's time to say goodbye." The Telegraph explains what happened next:

Certain sections of the away end called for it to be put away.

Witnesses to the incident said that there was some a “limited” outbreak of violence between fans but that it was more about the reaction towards Andre Santos and the performance of the team rather than Wenger personally.

After Theo Walcott struck a late winning for Arsenal, many away support starting did start chanting 'One Arsene Wenger' in support of their manager.

Meanwhile, russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who has been playing a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos for Arsenal ownership with American businessman Stan Kroenke in recent years (Usmanov has about 30 percent of shares while Kroenke has about 60), gave an interview to L'Euipe that showed the scuffles aren't limited to the away end at Falmer Stadium.

Usmanov gave his support to Wenger, who has been reluctant to spend and seen his carefully laid plans ruined by having to sell some of the club's biggest stars in recent years. "The greatest achievement of Arsene Wenger is to have created two teams: the one that now plays for our rivals and the one that is trying to be among the best in the Premier League," said Usmanov. He continued (via the Guardian):

"For me, he's one of the best coaches in the world, but it's not easy for him. I think he deserves that players are brought in at Arsenal when they're needed.

"The best players, and not being satisfied with selling our best players to our rivals. If that happens, we can ask everything of him. But, today, he's sacrificed. Because of the policy and we're all to blame. Everything's in [the Arsenal majority shareholder] Mr Kroenke's hands and I hope he succeeds, even if he doesn't go along with my ideas.

"It's unthinkable that the shareholders get well-paid while, for small clauses in contracts, we lose key players, symbols like Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini or Patrick Vieira. We should have increased their salaries when they started to be courted, started to look elsewhere. I don't know why we didn't propose that to them."

And if that dig at Kroenke and the rest of the Arsenal board wasn't clear enough, Usmanov circled back with a hammer. And Thierry Henry. And an eye patch, apparently.

"I like many footballers and I'm in contact with some of them. Perhaps my favourite of the last 10, 15 years is Thierry Henry. He's pushing me to buy all of Arsenal's shares, but I cannot predict the future," he said.

"When I had the chance to buy some shares and become one of the main shareholders in the club, I didn't hesitate for a second. I was even ready to take total control. That wasn't possible because certain people preferred to make a profit and create, using me, an outside enemy. I remain portrayed as a pirate, an enemy. They have won that game."

Though the doomsday scenarios of football clubs preached by fans and journalists often focus on the consequences of having all the power in the hands of one very impatient and perhaps too decisive sugar daddy, the more patient groups comprised of differing opinions that run a club like a proper business can be problematic too.

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