Wenger rues missed opportunity
Published 23/01/2013 | 07:55
Arsene Wenger admits that come May he will look back on this season as a huge missed opportunity for Arsenal to have ended their nine-year wait for a Barclays Premier League title.
Wenger's name became synonymous with success during his early years at Arsenal, but the Gunners are no longer considered realistic title challengers and they have not won a trophy of any kind in seven-and-a-half years.
"I saw Tottenham v Manchester United and you think (about) the difference between us and Manchester United when you see them play...," Wenger said. "It was a fantastic opportunity (to win the league) this season. To catch Manchester United now is out of sight at the moment."
The north London club welcome West Ham to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday knowing defeat will leave them seven points off fourth-place Tottenham and some 22 points behind their former arch rivals and current league leaders United.
Despite their domination of the league, United have looked a pale imitation of Sir Alex Ferguson's former teams while despite their lavish spending, second-place Manchester City have also failed to reproduce the level of form they showed last season.
Wenger added: "We have to get closer to the people in front of us first before we can think that. Man United is far but there is no untouchable team in the country at the moment. That is for sure. It should not be difficult (to get in the top four) but it will be tough."
Key to Wenger's struggles, of course, has been the departure of Robin van Persie, who has had no problem repeating his superb form last season with his new employers at Old Trafford.
Arsenal's inconsistency has also been a major problem. Gunners fans have been put through a roller coaster of a season. The highs of putting seven past Reading and Newcastle have been outweighed by the low points - home defeats to City, Swansea and Chelsea, not to mention the embarrassing Capital One Cup exit to npower League Two side Bradford.
Theo Walcott, who last week put an end to speculation about his future by signing a contract extension, said there is a lack of self-belief in the Arsenal camp and his manager concurs.
"I agree with him," Wenger said. "The players come out and think 'we could have done better'. But when you look at the first half (against Chelsea on Sunday) we lost goals we shouldn't lose, 50/50s you cannot lose in big games."