Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan insists English football will remain the priority for Wembley if his offer to buy the national stadium from the Football Association is accepted.
The FA announced on Thursday it had “received an offer” to buy Wembley, with Khan confirming his intention to purchase the 90,000-seater stadium.
An outline agreement between billionaire Khan and FA chief executive Martin Glenn is said to already be in place and the 67-year-old is hopeful the stadium could be his by August.
The Jaguars have played NFL regular season home games at Wembley in each of the past five campaigns and Khan believes securing a deal for the stadium is “very important” for the Jacksonville outfit, but he insists English football will come first.
When asked whether showpiece events – such as the League Cup and the FA Cup finals – would continue to be held at the stadium, Khan told Press Association Sport: “I absolutely see that continuing at Wembley.
“That is part and parcel of the legacy and the history is football.
“It generates revenue for the FA, so that is part of the package in the assets the FA would retain, and they would be played at Wembley.
“English football is sacred and that’s the priority. We would have NFL after that and then look at other avenues to use the stadium.”
Khan added: “So, why Wembley? Because of the Jaguars, the first stadium I went to in Britain was Wembley and I’ve admired it, love it and I think to assure, from my viewpoint, future scheduled games for Jaguars and other NFL teams it makes sense.
“For us, it’s very important. We’ve been playing a game in London for the last five years.
“We’re the smallest team in the NFL and we look for our annual game to give us the exposure and also build the fanbase.
“From the FA’s viewpoint, they get to keep the key assets which are the English football games and then also have money for massive investment in grassroots, English football pitches, etc.
“So, it’s just that intersection of the interests where it makes sense.”
Khan would like to complete the purchase in the next three months.
“I am speaking for myself, this is very fresh, so (we need to do) the due diligence to really identify what new investment would be needed and confirm all the structural aspects,” he said.
“I think that can be done in the next eight weeks or so. That ties up with the World Cup schedule. So early fall, like August, maybe two to three months from now, is what we’re targeting for a full close.”
Khan stressed the proposed purchase would not result in Fulham moving away from Craven Cottage, writing an open letter to fans to allay any concerns over his commitment.
“It will have no impact on Craven Cottage as the home of Fulham,” he said.
The Gunners dominated the first leg of their last-four clash following Sime Vrsaljko’s 10th-minute red card, Alexandre Lacazette heading in the opener on the hour mark.
But, with Wenger dreaming of the perfect end to his Arsenal tenure, a defensive slip allowed Antoine Griezmann to equalise and leave the tie finely poised at 1-1 heading into the return leg in Madrid next week.
After announcing he will step down as Arsenal boss at the end of the campaign, this was Wenger’s final European home game at the helm.
Yet, after a combination of profligate finishing and a fine performance from highly-rated Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Wenger was left ruing another game where missed chances could ultimately prove costly.
“We produced a performance we wanted to produce, but the result is not in line with the performance,” he said.
“We can only look at ourselves on tonight’s result because 1-0 is a perfect result at home. It was down to us after that not to make a mistake.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 26, 2018
“We had 20 shots on goal, we have seen that against Manchester United (earlier in the season), where we had 33 shots on goal and lost the game. It’s a story we’ve seen before.
“For us the task is clear. But of course you come out tonight with a bitter taste, because we had the chances to be in the final tonight.
“That’s where the regret is. We were not clinical enough and unfortunately we gave a goal away which puts us in a very difficult position.”
Atletico boss Diego Simeone watched much of the game from the directors’ box after he fumed on the touchline in the early stages.
The Argentinian spoke after the match and expressed his excitement of what promises to be an intriguing second leg next week. “It’s tough to know what to say,” he said.
“The ref decided to send off Vrsaljko and I thought an Arsenal player should have got a booking. When I protested he sent me off.
“To be honest it was 90 minutes in which my body was full of strong emotions, these players are basically heroes.
“They stood firm, after a long season, for 80 minutes in tremendous way. I have goosebumps thinking about the next match.”
Here’s an in-depth look at how the two managers fared.
Goals – 1
Shots – 28
Possession – 76%
Tackles – 20
Dribbles – 22
Goals – 1
Shots – 6
Possession – 24%
Tackles – 20
Dribbles – 6
Wenger’s usual 4-3-3 was in operation again, with no surprises in his selection given the lengthy injury list. His side was set up to control the game and create chances, and they did so with aplomb.
Familiar frailties popped up, however, as between an inspired Jan Oblak in the Atletico goal and slightly below-par finishing, the Gunners only scored once, while another defensive error cost them the win.
Simeone stuck to his usual 4-4-2 but saw his plans disrupted when right-back Sime Vrsaljko was sent off for a second yellow in just the ninth minute. His reaction to that decision saw him sent to the stands himself, hindering his side.
However, he got his tactical decisions spot on. He didn’t rush to change things after the sending off, and later substitutions helped shore up his disadvantaged side.
TACTICAL TALKING POINTS
NO FAITH IN HIS BENCH
Perhaps it was because his team was in such control, perhaps it was the fact that injuries had left his bench weak, but Wenger didn’t make a single substitution during the game. At the very least, once Atletico scored, bringing on Alex Iwobi or Eddie Nketiah on to chase a winner would have made sense. The visitors had no attacking ambition at that point, while Arsenal needed a goal to at least take a lead to Madrid.
Will his faith in his starting XI cost him?
STICKING TO HIS GUNS
Whenever a side is reduced to 10 men so early in a game, any manager would be tempted to make tweaks or even wholesale changes to add cover to the side. Credit to Simeone for not panicking – from a tactical sense, at least, if not from an emotional one – and trusting his team to adjust.
Thomas Partey, who had started off in midfield, began to cover at right-back, a position he has played before. Everyone else knew their role – a sign of a well-drilled team.
It’s hard to say that Wenger got something wrong, other than his lack of substitutions. Arsenal had enough chances to take a sizable lead into the second leg. The team set-up was right, and they should have scored enough goals to be in command of this tie.
Rating – 7/10
Simeone loses points for getting himself sent off. He was no doubt incensed at Vrsaljko’s sending off – although both yellow cards were justified – but in a European semi-final, losing his cool like that was inexcusable. But his team redeemed him with their performance under pressure.
Rating – 7/10