Wenger sets out priorities as Henry primed for cameo role
Published 09/01/2012 | 05:00
Another Arsenal FA Cup campaign begins tonight, at home against Leeds United. But, while the Gunners' supporters are desperate to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2005, it does not hold the same place in Arsene Wenger's priorities.
The Arsenal manager is unambiguously clear: re-qualifying for the Champions League is his priority.
The FA Cup, according to Wenger, is merely "a bonus that we want", in contrast to the Champions League, which is "something that is needed".
This means that given the choice of an FA Cup final in May, or an effective play-off to re-qualify for the Champions League, his preference would always be for the latter.
"For us it is not comparable -- the FA Cup and Champions League.
"The Champions League is compulsory. The FA Cup is something that is for enjoyment."
While Wenger was obviously insistent that winning tonight's game was important, he acknowledged that the status of Arsenal, the finances of Arsenal and the ambitions of Arsenal all made Champions League qualification a requirement at the expense of all others.
"It is more important," Wenger said. "That means you will want me to say it's not important to win on Monday: it's very important to win on Monday for us.
"The basis of our life at the top level is dictated by the championship. If we can add on top of that the FA Cup, it is fantastic.
"But our life, at the level where we are, with the wages we have, and the aspirations we have, is to play in the Champions League.
"After that you want, of course, to win all the other trophies."
Six years without a trophy, he said, should rather be looked at as six years of Champions League participation.
"During the same six years we have been in the Champions League and we have already qualified for the group stage this season. That is most important," he said.
"We have been in the semi-finals of the Champions League and final of the Champions League and you will realise one day that it is not as easy as it looks.
"Everybody is entitled to view it differently but you can't compare winning the Carling Cup to every year qualifying for the Champions League and every year coming out of the group stage.
"There is no comparison."
Wenger's concentration on the future is so intense that he does not even keep track of the medals he has won at Arsenal so far.
"I don't know where I have my medals," he admitted. "I look forward for the next one, for the next game, for the next win."
With Robin van Persie rested, Thierry Henry will return to Arsenal's playing squad for the first time since 2007.
Wenger does not regard Henry as ready to play the full 90 minutes and is more likely to start with Marouane Chamakh or Ju Young Park as the main striker. (© Independent News Service)
Arsenal v Leeds Utd,
Live, ESPN, 19.45