Wenger gave his usual pre-match press conference, with Arsenal playing against North London rivals Tottenham on Sunday. It was a longer conference than normal, and Wenger discussed the game, Bale, the top-four race, money availability and more.
Q: Team news, Sagna definitely out? And Abou Diaby, anymore news on him?
A: “Yes [Sagna is out]. He [Diaby] will have tests today and I will decide today whether he will be in the squad or not tomorrow. It is 50/50.”
Q: Is it more about what Arsenal can do than what Spurs can do?
A: “Exactly, it is an interesting game because there is something at stake, but we are confident. We are on a good run in the Premiership, if you look at our record it is very good in recent games. Just focus on our strengths, that’s it.”
Q: One of your strengths has been your defensive record away from home. It’s the best in the league.
A: “Yes, you would forget about that when you listen to people. So it’s good to remind.”
Q: Is it a game that you can’t apply logic to, where form goes out the window?
A: “It’s a derby, and a very intense game as usual. So, I think it’s always very tight, always a big fight, but if you look at our record it’s very good in the last 15/16 years, so of course we want to continue to maintain that record.”
Q: Your thoughts on the development of goal-line technology in the Premier League next season?
A: “I am very happy if it happens. So it will be very interesting and will it stop there or not that’s the only question mark you have, but I’m very happy if it comes in, yes.”
Q: The North London Derby last year was a massive turn around, is it as important this time?
A: “Yes of course, it’s a very important game because it’s in the final part of the Championship and the outcome will give a big boast to the team who wins it of course.”
Q: Will the winner end up the team who’s top out of the 2?
A: “No, not necessarily because there are still ten games to go and in ten games a lot can happen you know.”
Q: Do you feel you can overhaul Tottenham, it’s been 17 years since they last finished above you?
A: “Well that record should insight you to any optimism.”
Q: Sagna’s done well against Bale in the past, what’s your answer this time?
A: “Always the same, focus on our strengths and forget about our opponent.”
Q: But Gareth Bale is obviously someone you’ll need to plan for?
A: “We don’t plan for anybody.”
Q: In the Premier League, it’s won 4 drawn 1 in the last 5. Is that something that you’ve kept a focus on?
A: “Well look in the last 12 games, we won 9, drew 1 and lost 2. So we made 28 points out of 36, so that’s our record in the Premier League, it’s quite good. So what we want to do in the last 10 games, I said that after the Chelsea game, we cannot drop points. We go just in every game like it is a must win game, and we will have exactly the same approach.”
Q: Do you think Spurs will become the dominant team in North London now?
A: “I answer this question for 15 years now. It’s all only down to the result on the football pitch, and on the quality of our display that will decide that. Overall, Spurs always had good teams since I’m here. They had Ginola before, they had always great players, Anderton, they had always great players, always. But we just focus on us, and try to win the game, that’s all you can do.”
Q: You’ve always had support here, apart from a few who don’t agree with decisions, purchases or sales, but would you ever consider criticising the Arsenal fans?
A: “I never did it. So I know where you want to take me, but I have a sense of solidarity for every single manager because I am in the same job, because I know what they can go through, and as well because we are all human beings, and people forget that.
Q: Would the term interim be an obstacle for you in accepting a job?
A: “I don’t want to go further on that.”
Q: What’s the atmosphere been like this win since beating Villa?
A: “We were very down after the Bayern game, but we responded well and I believe that the strength of the team is to shorten the crisis. Where 1 team loses 2 games, some lose 6. That’s why for us, it was a vital game against Aston Villa who had recently a good record away from home, so to manage to win the game, people said we won petty, maybe, but we won. So the atmosphere of course, it was more a relief. There’s no euphoria, but it’s relief and we want to build on from that.”
Q: Do you agree with Diaby that beating Tottenham will lift you for the Champions League obstacle to come?
A: “Of course, every defeat makes you quickly weak, you have seen recently Barecelona, they just lost 2 games, look the effect, the damage it has on their confidence in the second half against Real Madrid. It’s quite amazing how fragile a team can become of such a big strength, form just 2 knocks. Every team needs confidence to express it’s potential.”
Q: Do you think there’s more pressure on managers now than there was 16 years ago?
A: “Yes. There is more pressure, yes, because we have more media interest, every decision today is analysed. Not always in the right way, but that is the price we have to pay because we have to get more money from the media as well. We live in a very comfortable world on the financial side, but the price we have to pay is what we have to give back is that everything is analysed and we are under more pressure.”
Q: Is it less enjoyable than it was 16 years ago?
A: “Football is exactly the same enjoyment. Managing, watching a football game, playing a game on the pitch, preparing for a game, is exactly the same. The environment of the game as got a bit more difficult. You not in football for that, you in football because you love what’s happening on the pitch.”
Q: Do you feel Bale is the player you’d least like to face in the Premier League?
Q: Who would be?
A: “There’s nobody special that you dislike to face. They all players who have different qualities, there is no player that you are absolutely scared to meet. What is always important when you are a manager, you more focused always, you worry, and that has not changed over the last 15 years. You always make sure your team is at it’s best and prepares well and focuses on playing the football we love. What is important before a game like that, is just to focus on our game and forget all the rest.”
Q: Allardyce says he is worth £50m now, would you be prepared to pay that?
A: “I don’t like to speak about £50m. In England it’s always about numbers, I think when you speak about a football player I don’t see a number on his shirt. I see his qualities, his deficiencies and what he can improve and how good he can become. I love football, all the rest, the numbers, is of little interest to me.”
Q: You said it’s too soon to compare him to Messi and Ronaldo. Do you think to fulfill his potential he needs to move abroad?
A: “No. I think everybody wants to come to England, I don’t know why the English players should go abroad. We have the best league in the world here, the most passionate and the most interesting as well. I don’t see why any player should go abroad. All the players who have gone abroad, when I speak to them, they want to come back.”
Q: Any regret that Arsenal didn’t sign Bale all those years ago?
A: “No, no, that’s not our worry today. He is not a subject of our worry for the next two or three days. We just want to prepare, we have great players in our team and it would be a complete mistake to focus on any player from Tottenham.
Q: Are you surprised that Tottenham have been able to close the gap over the last few years?
A: “No, since I’m here they are a club who have had huge potential.”
Q: Do we make too much about this £100m figure you have ready to spend on the right player?
A: “I don’t know, I don’t see what that will help us to win the game on Sunday. There is no transfer market at the moment, so I am not sitting here today thinking I have so much to spend. What is important is that the players we have play well on Sunday.”
Q: But some people say, Arsenal have all this money in the bank, but aren’t able to compete on the pitch. Would it be better to make £1 profit and win a trophy?
A: “If there’s only 1 trophy, it is the Championship. The real value of the team is where you finish in the Championship, so lets see where we finish, and lets see how we can strengthen the team. If it was just sorted out by the numbers, you would always have Chelsea and Manchester City champions every year. Chelsea finished 6th last year, people forget, and that’s the real value of the team for me is the Championship. We’ll see where we finish and after that strengthen the team to come back and fight for the Championship. I think we have the basis. If some of you are really interested in deep analyses of the team potential, I can sit down with you and show you why we have the potential to do it, and then we can have another discussion in a Press Conference.”
Q: Is there a danger that a North London Derby can have the nerves you spoke of, reemerge?
A: “I believe you are right, it will be important to be calm and focused and to get the two together right. The nerves play always a part in these kinds of games, and for us it will very important to focus on what we want to do.”
Q: Do you do this as a team or is it down to each individual?
A: “Each one can help the next one, each player can reassure, can help, so it’s both. The general team feeling will come from every individual being calm.”
Q: How do you solve the slow-starts in big games?
A: “We will work on it, but forget that we are at the start of the game and imagine that we are in the second-half.”
Q: Are those who haven’t played at White Hart Lane, aware of how big a game it is, Lukas, Santi..?
A: “They are aware of what we want to achieve and where we want to finish in the league, they don’t need to be explained. Players with experience are very ambitious players, these players want to play in the Champions League so they know what is at stake and they will be completely focused on what we want to achieve.”
Q: I mean with the rivalry between yourselves and Tottenham. Is that something you make them aware of?
A: “Not at all, it’s just the next game that we want to win.”
Q: Does what happened last season, with the turn around, give you a psychological advantage regardless of Sunday, on the run-in?
A: “The game on Sunday will have a psychological importance for the rest of the season of course. I believe that the way we play on Sunday will have a big impact on the rest of the season.”
Q: But what happened last season, will surely give you confidence?
A: “Anything can happen again, lets not forget that we are not only 2 teams, Chelsea is involved as well, they are not too far. Manchester City is I think maybe a little bit too far, but you never know.”
Q: Would it be wrong to discount him as a threat on Sunday?
A: “We will take everybody seriously, Adebayor is a good player and we will of course take him very seriously.”
Q: What do you think’s gone wrong for him?
A: “I don’t know, but it’s always a difficult season when players go the AFCON, before they have to go and after when they come back it’s always a difficult time.”