Wednesday 21 March 2018

Wenger hits back after 'unfair' press

Ian Herbert

Arsene Wenger's latest date with destiny arrives with the fallout still tumbling out from the last.

The Arsenal manager went back on the offensive yesterday, delivering a withering riposte to Michael Ballack's suggestion that Arsenal are "predictable". The Frenchman suggested that "positive" football sides like his own receive more criticism than those who "refuse to play".

Wenger's inference ahead of Liverpool's arrival in north London for tonight's Premier League game was that Chelsea -- a side with "tricks" as he put it on Sunday evening -- are among those doing the refusing. The 2-0 defeat to Carlo Ancelotti's side has clearly hurt him deeply.

"It is very painful. Do you think I fight every day and night to lose the game?" he said. And Ballack's talk of predictability has rubbed salt into the wound.


"When you try to have a positive philosophy, if you don't win you are more criticised than a team who refuses to play," Wenger said. "It is like that. Barcelona are praised when they win and if they don't win they are more criticised than any other team. Why? Because they are predictable.

"What is predictable is that we try to pass the ball. Now if somebody can prove to me that the purpose in football is not to try to pass the ball, then OK I will believe it. I don't. I know as well that it's down to me to live with the criticism of people. But the same people who said that we will not be in the top 10 now slaughter us because we are in the top three."

The contours of Wenger's anguish were hard to follow at times. There was even a suggestion of frustration that Arsenal suddenly find themselves on the defensive again while John Terry has evolved from villain to hero in the course of a few good performances. "Who cares about what is fair today and not fair?" he asked. "The same people who said you have to take the (England) armband off John Terry said the day after he's fantastic because Chelsea won the game."

More transparent was his belief that Ballack -- who said on Sunday that Chelsea "knew the way (Arsenal) would play" -- should try displaying grace in victory, like himself. "You say in the press I am a sore loser. Maybe, I don't deny that. But in the last game I was not and one quality you have to give me when you read some of my press conferences is that after the game when we win I always try to give credit to the loser."

The one consolation for Wenger is that he seems to have won the tussle with Liverpool for the services next season of Bordeaux forward Marouane Chamakh -- Rafael Benitez looked less than pleased when he declared "I don't think we will sign him" -- though the Arsenal manager suggested that his club generally cannot afford the major wages that come with a big-name signing.

"If you go on high transfers, you go on high wages," reflected Wenger, who seems unlikely to be able to start with Nicklas Bendtner tonight. "We cannot afford it. In football, we live like everybody can buy and buy and buy. But look at what happened in this transfer market. Give me one big move? Zero."

Benitez was an improbable source of support for Wenger yesterday, despite Arsenal being the only long-standing, top-flight ground where he has never won as a manager, with Andrei Arshavin's five goals in the clubs' last two league meetings contributing to defeats.

"He is a fantastic manager doing a very good job for 15 years in a foreign country," Benitez said. "They had two or three opportunities against Chelsea and 70pc of possession, they are a good team. I don't agree with the analysis that they were predictable."

Benitez knows much more than Wenger about not having money to spend -- high-level Anfield sources said yesterday that neither of the two reported new Indian majority stake investors in the club had been in contact with either Liverpool or its owners' principal banker, Royal Bank of Scotland.

But without playing at all well in January, Liverpool have quietly put together a seven-game unbeaten run and Benitez, whose central defensive troubles are exacerbated by Sotirios Kyrgiakos' suspension tonight, can aspire to Arsenal's third place -- even though the manager won't risk talking about it.

"Clearly all the teams are losing points, so you never know," he said of Arsenal's fast-fading title pretensions. "If you ask me, it depends on us and we will try to win and it will then be difficult for them so I have to have the belief and confidence that we will get three points against them and it will be more difficult for them. But you never know in football."

Elsewhere, Subrata Roy is ready to increase the pace of his bid for Liverpool. A spokesman for the Indian tycoon , declined to comment on the takeover attempt yesterday but sources in India confirmed the interest while saying that discussions were at an early stage. Roy's bid coincides with a rival offer from Mukesh Ambani. Reliance Industries, Ambani's company, issued a denial yesterday but it is understands that both offered to take on Liverpool's £237million debt in exchange for 51 per cent of the club. (©Independent News Service)

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