Friday 23 February 2018

Top-four finish priority for Wenger

Arsene Wenger wants a top-four finish and an FA Cup win again
Arsene Wenger wants a top-four finish and an FA Cup win again

Arsene Wenger claims every Premier League match is like a cup contest for Arsenal in their bid to secure a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League.

The Gunners play Monaco later this month after qualifying for the knockout stages of Europe's elite competition for a 15th consecutive season, but their participation in next term's Champions League is in doubt in a competitive Premier League.

Arsenal continue their FA Cup defence in Sunday's fifth-round clash with Middlesbrough, but Wenger knows priorities lie elsewhere.

"Our basic is always to finish in the top four and then win a trophy on top of that," said Wenger, whose FA Cup success last term ended a nine-year trophy drought.

"We want always to be in the Champions League and this season it will be very difficult, because it's very tight if you look at the table - every game now becomes a cup game."

The FA Cup is a competition Wenger wants to do well in, though.

"We have won (the FA Cup) five times during my period here," he added.

"Nobody has won it more in the last 18 years, so we have always taken the competition seriously."

Wenger plans to rotate his options and could give Gabriel Paulista his debut in defence and rest Germany World Cup winner Per Mertesacker.

The 24-year-old Brazilian signed from Villarreal for a reported £15million fee in a deal which attracted attention due to Arsenal's repeated defensive failings in recent seasons.

Wenger has no doubt Gabriel has the ability to swiftly adapt to English football, but the Arsenal boss has concerns that the language barrier could make life difficult.

Gabriel's English is "very bad", Wenger said.

"It is a problem," he added.

"When you don't speak English and you don't understand 'Come out, come back, right, left', it is a problem for a defender.

"You need to know the key words. Offside. Referee. Foul.

"(But) he has the physicality and motivation. He has an opportunity to show that now."

Gabriel is the first defender Wenger has bought with no English at all, although Jose Antonio Reyes' command of the language was limited even when he returned to Spain.

Wenger has experienced his own language barrier before, when he was boss of Grampus Eight in Japan, and sympathises with Gabriel, while stating there is one major plus of not knowing the lingo.

"The players are always under tremendous pressure because everything they do is analysed by the pundits and the press," Wenger added.

"The modern player has to live with that - resistance to stress has to be stronger than it was 10 years ago.

"He (Gabriel) will not read the press. He will just focus on his game - that is one of the advantages.

"When I was in Japan, people could say what they wanted.

"In Japan, you can speak Japanese and still not read the alphabet. The kanji has 2,000 different characters.

"In Japan I only read the Japan Times - because it was in English."

Press Association

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