Tuesday 20 March 2018

Wenger dismisses appeal of La Liga

Jeremy Wilson

ARSENE WENGER has defended his Arsenal record during five years without a trophy, but will reassess his future at the end of next season and only continue if he is confident of further success.

Defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday prompted Wenger to concede that the Premier League title would almost certainly go to Manchester United or Chelsea for a sixth consecutive year, yet he is adamant that Arsenal are catching their two main rivals.

Wenger also urged the players to retain faith in his project, arguing that Spain's La Liga would be a backwards step.

"I have one more year and I will respect that year," said Wenger. "Then we see where we are. I want to do well for this club; I do not want to be here because I have done well before and do not do well any more.

"On the curve, we are going up; that is for sure. They are coming down; that is for sure as well. Chelsea have six or seven players over 30. They will not go up, although Roman Abramovich can say in the summer, 'I buy seven players of 24'.

"With what we have done, with playing in the top three with all the competition we have, you cannot say the policy has not paid off. The first target was to stay at the top, which we managed.

"The second target is to win the Premier League or the Champions League, which we didn't manage. But we were close. We are not far. I believe I have done a good job."

As for the defeat by Tottenham, he said: "You have to take a distance. Over 21 games against them, we have lost once. And we did not have William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie (from the start) and Andrey Arshavin. It is not easy if you take four players of that calibre out."

Barcelona have denied claims from Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood that they promised not to bid for Fabregas this summer, but Wenger dismissed the attraction of La Liga.

"It is a league that is in complete disarray," he said. "This weekend the players (plan to) go on strike because they are not paid.

"They have two good teams, I confess that. The number three is 24 points behind. I watched Almeria v Real Madrid and you want to switch off after half an hour. It was not watchable. If you are really competitive, you stay in England."

Wenger admitted that Arsenal had been defensively vulnerable at important moments this season but intends to make only very selective changes during the summer.

"We need to add something," he said. "I believe we have made a big step forward considering last season and we want to do that again.

"We have gone for a policy of development of the team over a longer period. We have stood up for these young players so it is down to them to pay us back, stay together and show that we can be successful together. Nobody puts a gun to your head when you sign a contract.

"It should be absolutely logical that a player who is paid as he is paid respects his contract. I respect my contract because I have loyalty to the players so why should the players not respect theirs?" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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