Tuesday 12 November 2019

Wenger revels in England's festive tradition as Gunners target top spot

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he loves England's festive tradition
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he loves England's festive tradition

Jim White

When Arsenal take on Southampton at St Mary's this St Stephen's Day, Arsène Wenger says there is nowhere he would rather be. In response to Louis van Gaal's comments this week that the lack of a winter break in England was "evil", the Arsenal manager suggested that if the Premier League adopted the continental practice of a festive downing of tools, he would be moved to tears.

"I would cry if you changed that because it's part of English tradition and English football," he said ahead of his side's game with Everton at the Emirates this evening. "It's a very important part of us being popular in the world, that nobody works at Christmas and everybody watches the Premier League."

Wenger believes that by Christmas his team will have offered further evidence that they are better equipped to sustain an assault on the title.

"I think we have strengthened our belief with our run last season, from January 1. You could feel there was really a change in our stability. We won the FA Cup, which was difficult, and in a convincing way. We have shown that we can handle the pressure."

This weekend, his team have the chance of going top, albeit it temporarily ahead of tomorrow's Manchester derby. And Wenger insisted that the midweek victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League demonstrated that they would not be flattered by such elevation.

"People reproached us many times: 'OK, Arsenal play football but they are a bit fragile.' Before, maybe, when we were not dominating completely the game, we were a bit insecure. On Tuesday night, Bayern had a lot of the ball, but we could handle that."

Were Arsenal to go top it would be the first time they have occupied the summit since February 9, 2014.

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