'Money-time' holds title key -- Wenger
Arsene Wenger introduced a new phrase to the lexicon of the title run-in yesterday when he said that Manchester United's ability to "deal with the money-time" was what separated them from rivals Manchester City.
Wenger's Arsenal have the opportunity tomorrow to deal a significant blow to City's hopes of catching United at the top of the Premier League, and their manager was in little doubt about what has separated the leaders from the rest of the pack in the last few weeks.
The "money-time", Wenger said, was the last 15 minutes of a tight game at the end of the season when the three points have to be won.
There is no love lost between Wenger and City, who, he joked, had eight former Arsenal players either in their playing squad or among their staff including Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor, who is on loan at Tottenham.
Wenger said that City had been "outstanding at home" but "lost a little bit" on the road.
"Manchester United are surprisingly there in a comfortable position. No one expected them to be. They didn't look absolutely irresistible this year and you could see that again on Monday night against Blackburn. But they managed to win the game," he said.
"The other night at Blackburn, when Ryan Giggs came on in the last 15 minutes, you thought, 'They can only win it now', because they know how to deal with the money-time.
"That means the last 15 minutes in football when it is 0-0. You can't make a mistake. They have that security at the back. They have won so many titles because they are not nervous."
It was unclear where Wenger had picked up the phrase "money-time" -- he may have coined it himself -- but there did not appear to be any intentional allusion to City's Abu Dhabi wealth. Nevertheless, when pressed on the future of Robin van Persie, Arsenal's captain, top goalscorer and a leading candidate to be Player of the Year, Wenger said that he was not prepared to allow another player to be sold to City.
The next six months will be crucial for Arsenal in securing Van Persie's future. Wenger reminded his questioners that the striker was still under contract and could not be approached by another club. "He has one year to go," he said. "I don't think it's the best subject before Sunday's game."
Asked why he thought City had signed so many Arsenal players since 2008, Wenger said it had to stop. "They have enough players there now. Already Adebayor, Kolo, Clichy, Nasri, (Patrick) Vieira (the club's football development executive), that's five. Brian Marwood (football administrator), Brian Kidd (assistant manager), played for Arsenal.
"They have seven or eight people from Arsenal, it's enough. David Platt (first-team coach). Eight!"
There are no further injury problems for Wenger's squad besides the long-term absences of Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker and Emmanuel Frimpong, but the bulletin on Wilshere was not encouraging.
Wenger said that the 20-year-old, who has not played all season after surgery on a stress-fractured ankle, would have to be playing regularly by the end of this month to have any chance of being fit for Euro 2012.
"You'd think a player who wants to play in June, at the end of April they will have to be competitive. The next three weeks will decide (if Wilshere can play at the Euros)."
The long-term future also looked gloomy for Marouane Chamakh, who was photographed this week smoking a shisha pipe with fellow Moroccan Adel Taarabt of Queens Park Rangers.
Wenger described it as "not the best thing to do" and said it would be dealt with by the club. (© Independent News Service)