Arsene Wenger: Arsenal 'hungry' for Premier League title
Published 27/02/2016 | 22:36
Arsene Wenger has revealed Arsenal's recent Barclays Premier League title tilts have been rocked by players being tapped up - but insists that is not the case this season.
The Gunners last won the championship in 2004 and are challenging for a fourth league title under Wenger, with a trip to Manchester United on Sunday their next big test.
It is not the first time Arsenal have come close to adding to their honours list, in 2008 they were five points clear at the top of the table.
On that occasion, the run-in was derailed with a damaging defeat at Birmingham which saw Eduardo suffer a serious leg break and captain William Gallas endure a meltdown in the latter stages.
The next two seasons would also see Wenger's men labelled as nearly-men, but the Frenchman has now told of how he believes his star players were being tapped up by other clubs and distracting them from helping Arsenal win the league.
Cesc Fabregas left for Barcelona while Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri were poached by Manchester City as Arsenal struggled to maintain their position as league challengers as they continued to pay off the debt of their new Emirates Stadium home.
But, with the ground now paid off and a real chance of winning the club's first title in 12 years, Wenger reckons it is all-change this time around.
"What is different is that at that time we were losing momentum. This time it's the opposite," he said.
"We are chasing and gaining momentum. We had two difficult games recently but overall the psychological situation is quite different.
"Also we were very young at that time, with the famous incident with Gallas at Birmingham. And the mood of some players was more to get the next contract somewhere else than to win the championship because at the time we had to sell our players.
"When we went into April some of the players were tapped up to go somewhere else and it was difficult to maintain the focus. That's not the case at the moment."
Wenger admits such cases were harmful on the dressing room camaraderie whereas now all he sees is a squad hungry for success.
"It's difficult to keep the focus," he said of the impact of players looking to move on.
"Now we do not have that problem at all. All the players are focused and want to win and have great solidarity. It's down to showing how good we are. The psychological situation is completely different today than it was in 2010.
"This is a team that's very hungry. They want to win and I think they've shown that in the FA Cup in the last two years. This team wants to do well and is very conscientious and I think my job is more to relax them a little bit."
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford 10 points clear of the 20-time champions of England and victory over Manchester United would end a difficult week for Wenger which saw his side draw 0-0 with Hull in the FA Cup fifth-round and lose to Barcelona in the opening leg of their Champions League clash.
But Wenger believes the perception that Arsenal always fade off in the title run-in is incorrect and feels his side now have a collective spirit that can help deliver the championship.
"I think it's certainly top, top spirit-wise," he said of his squad when asked to compare it to his unbeaten Invincibles of 2004.
"The Invincibles are special because they have a special bond as well. You are not invincible in a whole season if you don't have a special bond.
"Guys of exceptional individual quality and I still meet with them today and you realise as well 10 years later what kind of special charisma all these guys had. I think at the moment spirit wise I cannot criticise.
"In 2010 I would say we lost it because the spirit was not exactly what it should be because of individual tap ups. At the moment, I think on the spirit front we are alright.
"I read many things which are not completely verified by the statistics. For example, there is a perception that Arsenal fades in March and April. But if you look over 20 years we have always finished stronger in the second part of the season.
"The history of the results creates bonding. Positive results creates bonding so let's create the positive results."