Football: Arsenal chief eyes marquee signings

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has told supporters that the club is hunting for top players to boost the squad.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has told supporters that the club is hunting for top players to boost the squad.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has told supporters that the club is hunting for top players to boost the squad and defended the decision to hand manager Arsene Wenger a new contract after a season marred by protests.

A vociferous section of fans turned on the long-serving manager when Arsenal exited the Champions League and their hopes of a change of leadership were dashed when he signed a two-year deal at the end of the campaign.

"We're looking for top-quality players," Gazidis said at a fan event on Thursday.

"We've got three times as many scouts as we had four years ago. I believe that to be a world-class football club you've got to be world-class off the pitch."

Some fans are disillusioned with the direction the club is heading in under Wenger, a feeling compounded by the perception that he is unwilling to spend big money on players who can take Arsenal to the next level.

On the pitch, Arsenal won the FA Cup but finished fifth in the Premier League, failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in Wenger's 21-year tenure.

Gazidis denied there was an element of sentimentality behind the Frenchman's stay.

"It was a mutual one," he said. "I care about the club and those values. I want the club to be successful."

He also implored the supporters to unite behind the team.

"There has been a lack of unity and dissatisfaction. The board knows that," he added.

"I beg you, please come together and give our manager and this team support. I want the atmosphere to be united and it has been a struggle because we haven't had that."

It remains to be seen if fans will continue to back Wenger, with the crucial factor lying in the recruitment of top players.

The Gunners have ended their pursuit of highly-rated Monaco teenager Kylian Mbappe and are focusing their attention on fellow French forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Lemar, according to The Daily Mail.

But Arsenal have also had bids for Lacazette and Lemar rejected. They made a £30 million (S$53.75 million) offer for Lemar, but Monaco are desperate to hold on to the winger.

Lacazette could be an easier capture should Arsenal meet Lyon's asking price. The French club have said that the striker can leave in the summer for £50 million.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'Arsenal chief eyes marquee signings'. Print Edition | Subscribe