Combative Wenger shows pressure is getting to him
LONDON (AP) — Angered by criticism of Arsenal and claims about his future, Arsene Wenger’s irritation boiled over publicly ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Bayern Munich.
Arsenal’s last chance to end a trophy drought stretching back to 2005 is in Europe after being knocked out of the FA Cup by second-tier Blackburn on Saturday.
Wenger was frustrated Monday by continued questions about that loss, and grew angrier when asked about a report claiming he is in talks about a new contract.
“That is the wrong information and I work for 16 years in England,” Wenger said. “I think I deserve a bit more credit than wrong information that has only one intention: to harm.”
Turning to one reporter, Wenger asked: “Why do you look at me?”
“Because it’s your press conference,” the reporter snapped back.
“I just thought you had given this information out,” Wenger responded, referring to the report of contract talks.
The Frenchman is facing mounting calls from some Arsenal fans to leave the club he has managed since 1996.
“What is important is not what people say it is what happens on the pitch,” Wenger said. “We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that and cope with that and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion.
“There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.”
What is indisputable is Arsenal’s Premier League position: fifth, 21 points behind leader Manchester United and four points behind the fourth spot to qualify for the Champions League.
The only way to qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a 16th straight season could be by winning the European Cup for the first time in May.
First, though, Arsenal must negotiate the two-legged last-16 match against Bayern, which has a 15-point lead in the German title race.
“What is important is to forget what people say and focus on our strengths,” Wenger said.
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes responded to Wenger’s outburst by claiming criticism of his counterpart is unfair.
“You have to take into consideration that Arsenal are competing with teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City,” Heynckes said. “The way I see it, over the years they have been selling their best players whereas the other teams get in these world stars.
“If you have to compete with that I don’t think it is fair to blame Arsene Wenger. Wenger is a great coach.”
But at Bayern, Heynckes knows a manager could not get away with a trophy drought as long as Wenger’s.
“If you are Bayern Munich if you do not win the title it is simply not enough,” Heynckes said. “Two years at Bayern Munich without a title — you have to do something about that.
“This season we’ve changed a few things around. We’ve improved in defense and our switching of the play. What is very important for me is that all players have learned they must defend and attack.”