Amid rising fan unrest, defiant manager Arsene Wenger last night insisted there was no crisis at Arsenal.
The Gunners headed out to Athens for tonight’s final Champions League Group B clash with Olympiacos on the back of a 2-0 home defeat by Swansea which was preceded by angry fans demonstrations and followed by reports of dressing room bust-ups, as well as questions over Wenger’s long-term position.
Wenger, however, used last night’s UEFA press conference ahead of what is effectively a dead rubber, with qualification already secure for the last 16, to focus away from negative headlines and banners with club’s crest as a broken cannon.
“You should look a little bit at the statistics and not only read the newspapers. I only have one pressure and that is to win the next football game and to play the football I love. All the rest, I don’t think that affects me at all. You would be surprised,” said Wenger, who has left several first team players, including England duo Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, back in London and will pack the bench with youngsters.
“Nothing really happened (after Swansea). That the players are not happy after the game, do you want them to do a dance after we lost? This group of players is very strong, very highly motivated, has a very good spirit and they want to win. If they don’t win, of course they are upset. I am more worried if I see players who laugh in the shower after a game we lost. We are in a job where the next game is the only important thing, that is how you show how good you are.”
Wenger continued: “The situation is at the moment we are behind in the Championship, we want to make ground back, we are qualified for 13 consecutive years in the Champions League, we are qualified in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup and we have our chances in the FA Cup like everyone else.
“We have many challenges and that is what we want to focus on.”
Asked if he would swap places with Manchester City, who failed to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League once again, the Arsenal manager said: “No, for one simple reason, we have played 15 games, so we have 23 games to come back on them, but once you are out of a cup competition, you cannot come back.
“We can make up the distance in the league, but in the Champions League, you are either in or out.”
There have been calls for Wenger to spend big in the January transfer window. The Arsenal manager, though, insisted his attention must first be on getting consistent results now rather than in the new year. “What is important now is to do well until January 1. What happens in January, we will see if we need to something and we will do it,” he said.
When pressed on whether Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard was on his shopping list for 2013, Wenger replied: “We are in the country of Socrates. He said: ‘I know that I know nothing’, and that is a bit like football.”
Wenger is under contract until 2014. The 63-year-old maintains he is not looking past the here and now with Arsenal. “Football is a short time. I said that I always respected my contracts and that I never renegotiated any contract in my life,” he said.
“When I sign for something, I stand for it and that will continue as long as I will work. These are two principles that I always respected.”
Wenger feels the likes of 18-year-old forward Zak Ansah, 19-year-old Swiss defenders Sead Hajrovic and Elton Monteiro as well as young English striker Chuba Akpom, 17, will all learn from the experience at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium tonight.
Olympiacos face fierce Athens rivals Panathinaikos next Sunday and could rest some regulars. Northern Ireland and former Manchester United keeper Roy Carroll could come in to face the Gunners.
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