Wenger relives summer of pain
Arsenal boss hoping for fresh start today against Swansea after troubled close season and United humiliation
'Le Professeur' was in a bookish mood yesterday.
Arsene Wenger declared he could easily pen a harrowing tome of Arsenal's troubles this summer while quoting the recently published findings of a Swedish doctor who concluded that trophies are won by clubs who keep their "big players fit" from March to June. It's as simple as that.
Ahead of today's game at home to Swansea, there was also a playful declaration that, as a football manager, Wenger expected to "go to hell one day". If he is really looking for a book title then he could consider worse than 'Arsenal's inferno'.
And Wenger has looked like a man in torment, not least during the watershed 8-2 defeat to Manchester United when his team "collapsed completely" just before he went out and signed five players as the transfer window closed.
It was, he continued to argue, no knee-jerk reaction to the "humiliation" at Old Trafford but the scars are almost visible. He still refused to discuss what he did after the match -- more immediately there was a need to convince the senior players left behind, such as Robin van Persie, after the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, that the club still had ambition.
"Yes, they could be a little bit worried about our ambition because they see big players moving out and not big players coming in," Wenger conceded. "If you look around you when you are a big player you want big players, the confidence you gain is as well by who is around you.
"There was no resentment (to the departures). There was maybe more, from the players who were here, uncertainty about our potential and determination to strengthen the squad.
"I could write a book about the summer. I think it would be quite an interesting one. Not because of me but because of all that happened, it was quite unbelievable. In my job you expect to suffer. So, that's why when I go to hell one day it will be less painful for me than for you, because I'm used to suffering.
"We didn't know for a long time if Nasri would go or not. Will the transfer of Fabregas go through or not? We wanted to speed up the movement but we were not the only ones who decided. I must say, Fabregas and Nasri played completely well and respectfully, but they were not completely here."
They are not "here" at all now. Instead Wenger signed Mikel Arteta, for £10m, and Yossi Benayoun, on loan, on deadline day to add to Per Mertesacker, for £8m, Andre Santos for £6.2m and Park Chu-Young for £2.5m. It represented a flurry of unprecedented activity that he admitted was "very unlike Arsenal" after "the most disturbed pre-season we have had since I have been here".
With the international break, it feels like a new beginning, as if the season starts here for Arsenal, who have one point from three Premier League matches but have at least reached the Champions League group stages.
A new start, but also a new uncertainty. Arsenal face Swansea with Mertesacker, Arteta and Benayoun all possible debutants. Park has yet to receive clearance, while Santos is not fully fit.
An early goal is crucial -- notably to ensure there is no lingering damage from the United defeat, not least to some of the young players who, Wenger admitted, he left exposed that day because his squad was too small.
"When you sit at Man United and you experienced what we did and we only have players without experience to come on, I felt that somewhere in a situation like that you don't even help the young players," he said.
"It is difficult to swallow because it is a kind of humiliation. I think the team collapsed completely when Man Utd scored the fourth goal and the last 20 minutes were very, very difficult.
"But overall, until now, we have shown quite good character and it's a good opportunity to show that again against Swansea. It is now down to me and the players to show I have made the right decisions." (© Daily Telegraph, London)