Under-fire Arsene Wenger shows the strain as he lashes out at press conference
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit out at “wrong information” intended to cause “harm” following reports the club had opened talks over a contract extension.
The North London side host Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League showdown tonight just a few days after crashing out of the FA Cup at home to npower Championship Blackburn.
Reports yesterday suggested that despite the Gunners facing up to what could be an eighth season without a trophy, negotiations had already started with Wenger over a new deal, with his current contract set to expire in the summer of 2014. However, Wenger, 63, went on the offensive at his pre-match press conference this afternoon, looking to set the record straight. “That is the wrong information and I work for 16 years in England and I think I deserve a bit more credit than wrong information that has only one intention: to harm,” the Arsenal manager said.
“If it is good information which comes from nowhere it is all right, but this is wrong information that comes from nowhere and it is completely wrong.”
Wenger then became involved in a heated exchange with a journalist, adding: “I look at you not because you give information, I do not know if it is you, I do not know where the information comes from. Why do you look at me? I just thought you had given this information out.”
When asked about Saturday’s FA Cup loss he said: “Here this is a pre-match conference for the Champions League, if you want to talk about Saturday, that press conference has been made after the game.
“Can we get some questions about tomorrow’s game, that would be very nice.”
Wenger feels it is important to “take a distance” from Saturday’s disappointment, a first FA Cup defeat for his side against lower-league opposition. He said: “We have to analyse the game. We lost to a team who had one shot at goal, it is not like we have not touched the ball in the Blackburn game. Football is about skill, intelligence and some things as well are a bit unpredictable.”
Wenger stressed his team must take no notice of the negative headlines and broken cannon motifs if they are to progress over two legs against the Bundesliga leaders. “We know well what is going on here. What is important is to forget what people say and focus on our strengths,” he said. “We play for Arsenal in the last 16 of the Champions league, we have qualified for a long, long time. What is important is not what people say it is what happens on the pitch. We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that and cope with that and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion. There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.”
Wenger added: “There is a lot of superficial analysis. We have to accept we take the blame for going out (of the FA Cup), but you have to put things into perspective. You have to really analyse it, just because one guy says one thing, everybody has to go the same way.”
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes leapt to the defence of Wenger, labelling the recent criticism of his Arsenal counterpart as unfair. Wenger’s last remaining hope of a trophy is the Champions League, but standing in Arsenal’s way are Heynckes’ German giants. Last season’s runners-up are one of the favourites to return to the final this year after surging 15 points ahead in the Bundesliga. That they have done so without conceding a goal so far in 2013 has made tonight’s last-16 first-leg tie all the more daunting for Wenger.
While Wenger was tetchy in his press conference, across London the mood was far more considered as Heynckes, in the plush surrounds of the ballroom at the Landmark Hotel, offered his thoughts on his under-fire rival.
“You have to take into consideration that Arsenal are competing with teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City,” he said. “The way I see it, over the years they have been selling their best players whereas the other teams get in these world stars. If you have to compete with that I don’t think it is fair to blame Arsene Wenger.
“Wenger is a great coach. You see the way his teams play. Arsenal has a lot of tradition and history. They play attractive football. If you take away the game against Blackburn they have been very positive. They’re fifth in the league. They will be a very difficult opponent for us.”
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