Wenger on the defensive over record with 'limited resources'
Arsene Wenger has launched the most wide-ranging defence yet of his Arsenal record, arguing that his achievements during recent trophy-less years are comparable to when he led the club to three Premier League titles, including the 'Invincible' season of 2003-04.
It follows questioning of his tactics in the goalless draw against Aston Villa, when some Arsenal supporters chanted 'You don't know what you're doing' and 'We want our Arsenal back', following the decision to replace striker Olivier Giroud with defender Francis Coquelin.
Wenger claimed that he and the players "do not give too much importance" to such criticism, but he was clearly anxious to remind supporters of past successes and also offer reassurance about how Arsenal are now entering a new era of financial strength.
Twice during his weekly press conference, Wenger answered questions about Everton by noting his own record at Arsenal in the context of what he called "limited resources".
Since moving to the Emirates in 2006, Arsenal have made a profit on transfer fees, although their annual wage bill has spiralled to £140m and stands behind only Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League.
"My job is to get the best out of my team with the potential we have," said Wenger. "At the end of last season, we finished third. I don't think there was much more in the team than finishing third. My pride comes from that as well.
"Like when we won the Premier League with zero defeats, which nobody else has done, you can think there is not much room to do much better. At the end of the season, I want to stand in front of my mirror and think, 'I have done all I can'."
Asked about Moyes' record on a restricted budget, Wenger said: "Of course I admire him, but I can show you our transfer balance over the last 16 years and you would be astonished. People forget we built a new stadium, that we had to go through limited resources, that we maintained the club at the top and we didn't have the money available.
"I accepted to stay and to do that. We maintained the club at the top and we are now going towards a period where we will be able to compete again financially with other clubs. It was an exciting period, but a difficult one.
"We just qualified for 13 consecutive years in the last 16 of the Champions League and, even with all the financial resources we have now, it is not sure we will achieve that in the next 13 years."
Arsenal's finances have been hugely boosted by a new £150m sponsorship deal with Emirates. Negotiations are also ongoing with Nike and Adidas over a potential £100m kit deal.
These new arrangements, allied to UEFA's financial fair-play model, should dramatically enhance Arsenal's spending power relative to their competitors.
Wenger said that he felt "reinvigorated and spurred" by the prospect of managing again on a more equal financial footing with his main Premier League rivals.
"We are in a position where we can compete with the clubs for the transfer period," he said.
"In recent years, we have lost players – and not small players."
Wenger also questioned whether the critics at Villa Park on Saturday really represented the majority view of Arsenal supporters.
"The only thing you can say is that the extreme opinions are picked and sold like a majority," he said. "I am not worried about me. It does not hurt at all. The players are like me. Our job is somewhere else, on the football pitch."
Arsenal have an existing transfer fund of around £40m, with the first £30m from the Emirates deal then becoming available in the summer. Wenger said that only "top" quality would persuade him to spend in January.
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha is being watched regularly while Wenger also agreed that Everton's Marouane Fellaini, who his team must contain tonight, could "do a job" for Arsenal.
Wenger also believes that the club's additional revenue will help keep key players, including Jack Wilshere, who will soon be offered an extension, on improved terms, to a contract that expires in 2015. (© Independent News Service)