Thursday 21 November 2019

Embattled Wenger insists critics ‘will miss me when I am gone’

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Sam Wallace

Arsene Wenger faced down the growing clamour for him to be replaced yesterday when the Arsenal manager said, "you will miss me when I am gone" at the end of a heated press conference, ahead of tonight's Champions League last-16 first-leg tie with Bayern Munich.

The 63-year-old also promised that one day he would make public "a list" of the clubs he could have left Arsenal for over more than 16 years in the job, adding "and you will see that I am committed to this club".

With the memories of Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers still fresh, Wenger (right) defended his team's record in the Champions League as they prepare to face the formidable Bayern, 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and without conceding a goal since December 14.

Asked whether a team that has been eliminated in the domestic cups by League Two's Bradford City and Championship side Blackburn could hope to beat Bayern over two legs, Wenger said that the response to Saturday's result had been disproportionate.

"Do you think really that Bayern Munich can never lose to a smaller club in Germany?" he asked.

"Manchester United have lost against 'Division Three' (York City, who were in the third tier when they beat United in the League Cup second round in 1995). That can happen. Football is not as mathematical as that.

"What I find absolutely unbelievable is that when it happens to me it is a complete storm. You know why? Because in 16 years it never happened.

"In Europe, we have beaten everybody, which is what people forget," he added. "And we are the only team that has gone into a final (in 2006) without conceding a goal, despite the fact that we never have a good defensive record."

Wenger conceded that he was concerned about the "psychological" state of his team, whose first-half performances have been dramatically worse than after the break.

"We are champions of England in the second half and in the first half, no," Wenger said. "For psychological reasons. Because we fight the whole season against everybody 'hunting' here saying: 'The players are not good enough, buy players' and all that. But one day you will realise that this team has fantastic qualities."

At the end of his press briefing, Wenger rose to leave and agreed with one reporter's suggestion that despite a combustible press conference he would be missed if he left. "I am sure you would miss me when I am gone," he replied.

The briefing followed Wenger's press conference for television in which he uncharacteristically lost his cool.

In front of the cameras he picked out a newspaper reporter at the side of the room and mistakenly accused him of being behind a story in that morning's paper suggesting that the club were prepared to offer him a new two-year deal beyond his current contract, which runs out in the summer of next year. (© Independent News Service)

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