Bruce defends Wenger record
Published 19/04/2014 | 18:32
Hull manager Steve Bruce is staggered by the idea that Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger could be under pressure for his job at the end of the season and rates the Frenchman as ''one of the greats''.
Bruce has two chances to increase the scrutiny on the Barclays Premier League's longest serving boss, with the Gunners needing victory at the KC Stadium on Sunday to keep their top-four push on course and the teams meeting again in next month's FA Cup final.
Should Arsenal miss out on the Champions League and fail to end a nine-year trophy drought at Wembley, Wenger would find himself in the weakest position since arriving at the club in 1996.
But Bruce believes any talk of his time in north London being up is misguided. A penalty shootout success over Wigan in the cup semi-final followed by a victory from behind against West Ham in the past week may not go down as two of the club's finest hours, but Bruce believes they offer proof that Wenger's influence is not on the wane.
''Just when they needed a big couple of results they got them. You give great credit to the manager,'' he said.
''It doesn't matter how they got them, they might not have played the 'Arsenal way' against Wigan last week or against West Ham but they've turned it around and won back-to-back games when they've needed to.
''Just when they needed a couple of results they've got them and how often has Mr Wenger done that?
''For me, the manager gets unfair criticism. The guy has done an amazing job for the last 17 years...16 of those in the top four is a remarkable achievement considering he hasn't had the funds all the other big clubs have had.
''He's not everybody's cup of tea but the one thing you must say is his teams play a fantastic way and he's proved to be one of the greats as far as I'm concerned.
''He's not had the spending power of the big, huge clubs in Europe but he's always been competing - semi-finals, finals, the final of the Champions League.
''With his record how we're even questioning him baffles me.''
Wenger believes his squad deserve great credit for coming out of what was a tough period after a string of poor performances again saw their character called into question.
''What is satisfying for me is that we do as well as we can until the end of the season, that you can turn and think 'this team has behaved really like a top-level professional team', with all the ups and the downs,'' he said.
''Because that is what you want from your team, to feel that the team has given as much as they could. After that, you leave the judgement to other people.
''We want to come out of the season and think we have given absolutely everything, and I must say this team has been absolutely focused since the start of the season.
''We had our downs, and big downs for some periods, but the behaviour was always focused.''
Arsenal could have record signing Mesut Ozil back from a hamstring injury for the trip to the KC Stadium.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini returns from a two-match suspension, while full-back Nacho Monreal is on course to have recovered from the dead leg suffered against Wigan.
Defender Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) is out, while midfielder Serge Gnabry (knee) and England international Jack Wilshere (foot) are still recovering, along with Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott (both knee).
Hull strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic were cup-tied for the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United, but can expect to return to the side with Yannick Sagbo and George Boyd vulnerable.
Bruce may also consider moving to a back three against the Gunners, bringing central defender Alex Bruce into contention for a recall.