Wednesday 28 September 2016

Arsene Wenger on Gary Neville: 'He should back his opinion up with facts'

Philip Duncan

Published 28/08/2015 | 08:01

Gary Neville was criticised by Arsene Wenger
Gary Neville was criticised by Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger stands by his decision not to buy a defensive midfielder and launched a stinging attack on former professionals working in the media.

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Wenger's criticism comes in the wake of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville calling the Arsenal manager "arrogant and naive" following what he has deemed as a failure to find a replacement for Patrick Vieira.

Wenger brushed off Neville's criticism after his side's goalless draw against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night.

But speaking ahead of his side's trip to Newcastle on Saturday, Wenger called on former players to provide an educated opinion, and claimed that Francis Coquelin boasts the best defensive statistics in European football.

"I think we have had that debate for a long time now that Arsenal does not buy defensive players," said Wenger.

"Since January we have conceded fewer goals than anybody else. The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, it is documented and worked out before, especially when it is football specialists.

"I accept you can be right and I can be wrong, but what you do not want is just an opinion that comes out just because you feel like that.

"People can say they don't think Arsenal is good enough, I accept that, but it is dangerous to say that 'he will never be a player' especially when the comment has come from people in football. The concern is that it puts pressure on players.

"Defensively, Coquelin is doing a great job. He has the best defensive statistics and numbers in Europe."

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Arsenal have endured a sluggish start to their Premier League campaign. A victory at Crystal Palace has been sandwiched by an opening-day defeat against West Ham and a 0-0 draw with Liverpool, both at the Emirates Stadium.

Indeed the Gunners have failed to score at home this season and they ended the last campaign without a goal in three of their final four matches at the Emirates.

Explaining his side's poor return at home, Wenger said: "Teams are playing deeper, much deeper and that is why the first goal is important in these kinds of game.

"If you don't manage to score, they are quick on the break and they close you down very quickly.

"We have to play quicker, be more incisive, combine quicker in the final third and we work hard on that.

"We analyse the number of expected goals we should score with the chances we create and at the moment we have a little deficit."

Arsenal could travel to Newcastle without their first-choice defensive partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Koscielny is battling a back injury while Mertesacker is sidelined with a chest infection. Both missed Monday's game against Liverpool.

"I will certainly know more about Koscielny on Friday morning - the less likely to be fit is Mertesacker," said Wenger.

"At the moment he does not get better, and on Wednesday he was not good.

"The Germans are a bit sceptical of antibiotics, I don't know what sort of medication he is taking. I hope that he comes in and says I am perfectly all right."

Press Association

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