Wenger has launched an impassioned defence of his management and said he “cannot understand” the Arsenal supporters who criticise his team’s “outstanding” season. The north London club’s season is in danger of unravelling following a woeful six-week spell which has seen them beaten in the Carling Cup final, crash out of the Champions League to Barcelona and lose an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.
During last weekend’s stalemate against 10-man Blackburn, a number of Gunners fans made their anger known and the team head to Blackpool on Sunday knowing only a win will realistically keep them in the title hunt.
Wenger said: “It doesn’t hurt me personally, but it bothers me that the players do not get the recognition for what they have put in since the start of the season.
“It is important we realise this team is absolutely amazing for what they do at their age. One day people will understand that, but at the moment, I am not sure many people do.
“Now it is a crucial moment where we have to trust these players and not listen to opinions of people who have not worked half a day in football.
“Personally, I am very proud of the attitude, the behaviour and the quality of our season. I will defend that until the end.
“What is important from now until the end of the season is we give absolutely everything to beat them. That for me is success.” Six weeks ago Wenger was pondering the prospect of a clean sweep of trophies but since then a potentially glorious campaign has collapsed, as Arsenal were upset by Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final, beaten by Manchester United in the FA Cup, eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona and lost the initiative in the Premier League title race.
This week the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust expressed its “considerable disappointment” with the way the season has unravelled and bemoaned the fact that Arsenal risk enduring a sixth year without a trophy. There have been widespread suggestions that Wenger’s recruitment policy is flawed and faith in young players excessive, but the manager angrily defended his record and his method, claiming his side should be acclaimed for being ahead of teams with greater resources, such as Chelsea and Manchester City.
“It bothers me that the players do not get the recognition for what they have put in since the start of the season,” said Wenger ahead of the game against Blackpool on Sunday. “We’ve done extremely well for our age as we’re second in the league. Is that a disaster for you? There are teams who invest 10 times more than us, where one player cost more than our whole team, and they’re behind us. I don’t understand the way people think.
“I’m against superficial judgment. For example, people ask: ‘Why don’t you buy central defenders?’ We have a better defence than Manchester United if you look at the numbers [Arsenal have conceded 29 in the league this season, as opposed to United’s 32], but nobody mentions that.”
Wenger maintained that trophies, though desirable, are not the definitive gauge of success. “To be consistent at the top level is the most difficult and important thing in our job. We’ve been in the Champions League for 15 years, and there’s only two clubs who’ve done that in this country. It’s us and Manchester United. Trophies are one way to judge a club. They’re not overrated as it allows you to say you’ve won a trophy, but would you swap winning the FA Cup for playing in the Champions League?”
The Frenchman is aware of the critics who say he should splash out on proven performers to complement the talents that he has nurtured but he declared that it would be wrong for him to change his philosophy. “It’s important for football that there’s another way than to just come in, put money on the table and buy a star. The way we are doing things is right. If I look at this team I’m proud of them, proud of the attitude of the players and the football we play. It’s only in this country that we have to face what we face. If you go anywhere else in the world Arsenal are given much more credit. [This team] has not been built just like that, it is a real process of club work, coaching work – that is not just to go out and buy a player for X amount of money.
Wenger has not, of course, given up hope of winning the league this season, even though three consecutive draws by his side have allowed Manchester United to open up a seven-point lead. “I have been in football a long time and I can tell you these players have been absolutely outstanding from the first day of the season and that is why I will fight until the last day of the season to reward them.
“If someone is better than us we have to accept it. That is part of sport and we have to learn from that and deal with that. Why say it’s a disaster when we’re second in the league?”
Arsenal will attempt to close the gap on United by winning at Blackpool tomorrow, though they will be without the injured Alex Song and Bacary Sagna, while Theo Walcott will undergo a late fitness test on his ankle. “If at the end of the season Manchester United are better than us, we have to say congratulations”…
Copyright 2011 by Suffian Yans
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