A calmer Wenger insists Arsenal are not far off
Arsene Wenger is adamant that he remains the manager to “take Arsenal forward” and has again insisted that the club is close to rivalling the best in England and Europe.
Wenger has come under more fire this week than perhaps at any other time since taking charge of Arsenal in 1996, as FA Cup elimination by Blackburn Rovers and a 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League left the club facing an eighth season in a row without a trophy.
The strain on Wenger seemed evident even before the Bayern match, as the normally sanguine Frenchman appeared irascible in a press conference on Monday.
However, speaking to the press again yesterday, he joked that “I have calmed down”, and when asked whether this week’s criticism and disappointments had led him to contemplate stepping down, he said: “Never for a second.”
“What is important for me is to focus on the next game and try to give my best, like all the players.”
Arsenal’s next game is against Aston Villa in the Premier League and failure to win would risk compounding a galling campaign, increasing the possibility of the club, which is currently fifth in the table, missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time under Wenger.
Emergence from austerity
That is a prospect the Frenchman cannot countenance: “Financially we can live with it [not qualifying] but on the sporting front, no.”
The club is emerging from years of relative austerity caused by the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 and Wenger believes Arsenal now have the financial wherewithal to compete with most clubs in Europe.