'Hungry' Wenger defends Arsenal values as fans revolt at AGM
Arsene Wenger made an impassioned plea for support after Arsenal fans again made their discontent with the club clear at Thursday's annual general meeting.
Wenger addressed those gathered at Emirates Stadium after the majority of fans present voted against chairman Sir Chips Keswick and Josh Kroenke - the son of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke - being re-elected to the Arsenal board.
Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov, who was absent and voted by proxy, cast their ballots in favour of both remaining, meaning Keswick and Kroenke Jr were retained on account of a combined 97 per cent shareholding.
However, it amounted to a symbolic show of dissent, being the first time shareholders have voted down a resolution at an Arsenal AGM to prompt a card vote.
The significance was not lost on Wenger, who signed a two-year contract extension with the FA Cup winners at the end of last season following months of protests against his long-standing reign.
This is the first ever time shareholders have voted down a resolution at an Arsenal AGM. Card vote required. Damning for the Board-- AST (@AST_arsenal) October 26, 2017
"It's an immense privilege to speak here for a 21st time. I dedicate 99 per cent of my life to making you happy. Looking at what happened today, that's not easy," Wenger said.
"A football club is about the past, the present and the future. In what we see now, the weight of the past and the weight of the future has been kicked out of the game.
"The weight of the present has become heavy. It's the only one thing people want. Win or out. It's acceptable but I always guided this club with one idea - that the club is always, for me, about values.
"When I look at photos of the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s [Arsenal] have not always won but there's some pride for the sense of belonging to this club.
"I will never betray the people who create these values. Arsenal is a highly respected club, not only because we won the last game but because we represent something that is exceptional.
"The present for me is about style of play, winning trophies, winning every game. Don't think I don't know. It's essential.
"I just ask you one thing. Be behind the team. We accept the verdict at the end of the season but there's something special in this team. We have a chance."
Wenger went on to address the concentration of financial power among elite clubs in modern football, with Arsenal having failed to secure a Champions League spot for the first time in his 21-year reign last season.
The 68-year-old suggested surprises such as Aston Villa's European Cup win in 1982 feel impossible nowadays.
That drew a heckle of "At least they won it," from one shareholder, but Wenger still closed by warmly outlining his affinity for the club - winning long applause before a hostile atmosphere returned for addresses by Keswick and chief executive Ivan Gazidis, during which the much-criticised Stan Kroenke was a passive observer on the top table.
"My hunger and commitment is bigger than ever. I question myself a lot and I will sit down every year with my board to see where I go from there," Wenger added.
"My hunger is absolutely huge. No matter what happens one day, I will always love this club forever and be a huge fan of this club."