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Arsenal owner, Stan Kroenke, gives Arsène Wenger his full support

Thomas Vermaelen has said that Arsène Wenger remains the manager to take Arsenal forward in the long term, despite the current difficulties, while the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, will reiterate his support for the Frenchman at a board meeting on Thursday.

Vermaelen was in the team that lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night in the Champions League last-16 first leg, a home defeat that all but ended the club's hopes of winning silverware for the first time since 2005 and led to further questions about their direction. The Bayern winger Franck Ribéry said he "didn't think it would be so easy" at the Emirates Stadium.

Vermaelen said the squad were united behind Wenger and the captain hoped they would bounce back at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday. Arsenal have 12 games left to bridge a four-point gap to Tottenham Hotspur in fourth place and qualify for next season's Champions League.

"Of course we're behind him," Vermaelen said. "He's done a lot for this club and he still does a lot of hard work with us. He is the right man for the job. We, as players, have to show it on the pitch as well. At the moment the results are not good. But we will work hard with him to get the results back.

"I am actually shocked that people are questioning whether he is the right man. Everyone in football looks too short-term. They don't look at the long term, which you have to do. It doesn't mean that because it's not going well at the moment we don't stand behind him.

"We are disappointed. We have to look at ourselves and stick together in difficult times. Don't look at each other, don't blame each other and work hard every day to get the results back."

Theo Walcott said: "We've got the best man in the job to get our heads back to where they should be. We need to react in a positive way straight away. We can't be down in the dumps in training. Everybody needs to be alive and alert, to recover well. We cannot dwell on it too long.

"We've got some important games coming against Aston Villa and Tottenham, so we need to focus on that."

Kroenke was at the Bayern game and the routine board meeting has been in the diary for weeks, to coincide with his trip from the United States. He remains a staunch backer of Wenger, who is under contract until 2014, and Kroenke and the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, will make it clear that the manager can spend big money on signings in the summer.

The club have roughly £70m in the bank, most of which is available to Wenger and the Barcelona striker David Villa will be among his targets.

The club's financial position is strong and it should remain so even if the team do not qualify for the Champions League. The impact of the new shirt sponsorship arrangement with Emirates Airlines, which is worth £150m over five years, will begin to be felt this summer while the club is in negotiations over a lucrative kit deal, as its sponsorship with Nike is set to end next year. Nike are competing with Adidas for the right to continue.

The Bayern result prompted soul-searching and, although nobody would concede the tie was lost until after the second leg in Munich on 13 March, Walcott spoke of the German club's third goal being the "killer blow".

"We didn't play disciplined enough as a team to win, especially in the first half," Vermaelen said. "I think we had a good start but they took over really quickly and that's disappointing. They attacked down the flanks and it was difficult to cope."

Ribéry said: "We know Arsenal is having some problems in the league and maybe they are lacking in confidence. But we feel good, we're happy. Each to their own problems. We have the will to play well, to win, to defend together, and we'll have to match that performance in the second leg. Nothing is ever over in football."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Hytner, for The Guardian on Wednesday 20th February 2013 23.00 Europe/London

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image: © Matt and Kim Rudge

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