Sport Soccer

Saturday 18 January 2020

Finishing third better than winning cup for Wenger

Russell Kempson

It may fly in the face of popular opinion in the red corner of North London, but Arsene Wenger claimed yesterday that finishing third in the Premier League this season would rank as a better achievement than winning the Carling Cup or FA Cup.

Tell that to the long-suffering Arsenal fans. It is almost five years since their team won a trophy -- the FA Cup in 2005 against Manchester United -- and there are ominous signs that another campaign may drift by without any silverware.

If Arsenal lose against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, they will trail the Premier League leaders by nine points. Another defeat against Liverpool at home on Wednesday, coupled with a Chelsea victory away to Everton, and the gap would be 12.

Should Arsenal's Champions League campaign turn sour, when they take on Porto over two legs in the round of 16, their manager may have only third place -- behind Chelsea and United -- to aim for.

"It's very important that we win something," Wenger said. "We're here to win trophies. But it depends on what you call trophies. Is it the Champions League, the Premier League, the League Cup? If you win the League Cup, for me, you cannot say that you win trophies."

Asked if third position was better than winning either domestic cup, Wenger said: "Of course. It's much more difficult. I want to win trophies and I'm frustrated if I don't.

"But a season does not go from fantastic to zero. A season in the English league, when you fight with Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Man United and Chelsea to finish in the top three, is still not a disaster. It's not enough because you want to win trophies.

"We've just qualified from the group stage in the Champions League for the 10th consecutive season. That is, for me, three times as difficult as winning the League Cup five times. I know what's difficult and what's not difficult. I know people want to parade with a trophy and if you don't win a trophy, you can't do that. But it doesn't mean the rest of the season has been completely useless."

Losing tomorrow would further upset the club's impatient followers. "Of course I want our fans to go home and be triumphant. When they go home and cry, you feel responsible."

The Frenchman believes, though, that in that eventuality, the nine-point gap would not prove irretrievable. After all, Arsenal have already closed an 11-point deficit on Chelsea this season, when they went top of the league briefly after the 4-2 home win over Bolton Wanderers last month.

"Don't forget that if we are in a strong position after these games, we don't play Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Everton because we have played them all twice," Wenger said. "If we are in contact coming out of these games, we will be in a very strong position."

Sami Nasri, the Arsenal midfielder, disagrees. "A defeat would mean the end of our title hopes," Nasri said. "But any other result would keep us in the race."(© The Times, London)

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