Arsene Wenger jumped to Mesut Ozil’s defense against the Arsenal “legends” and bluntly pointed out that even his greatest players also had their weaknesses and bad games.
Ozil used facebook this week to call on prominent former players to support the club rather than criticise, prompting strong responses from former Arsenal players like Ian Wright and Lee Dixon.
Wright called on Ozil to sign a new contract if he felt so strongly and care about the club, Dixon also pointed out that former professionals had a job to fulfil their media jobs as best they could, just as players must perform to their maximum on the pitch. Wenger believes that there has been a lack of sincerity in some of the hard-hitting analysis of Arsenal’s unimpressive start to the season, notably the shameful 4-0 defeat at Liverpool.
Speaking at the Press Conference ahead of the Bournemouth game, he said “I always have problems understanding what a legend is and what a legend isn’t,” said Wenger. “I’ve had all the players here but they all had their weaknesses. Don’t worry about that. They had their weak games and their weak behaviours as well. Nobody was perfect.
“We have to take a distance with that, focus on our performance and not be dragged into any animosity. We are all grateful for what they have done for the club, but what matters is always the players on the pitch who can defend the pride of the club.”
Arsene Wenger also calls for supporters to stay with team amid all the anger that followed such a poor performance and surprising team selection against Liverpool. “I never could understand what a crisis is,” said Wenger. “To lose a game? I’m in a crisis. For me every single defeat is a crisis, yes.
“If you ask me do I suffer with performances like that, that’s obvious. You want ideally your team to perform at the top, top level and of course you question your decisions, you question your preparation and absolutely everything.
“I must say I love my players, I believe in my players and we have a good opportunity to show that we have the quality that people want from us. We are in a part of the season where we want our fans behind the team. We can come out of this [Liverpool] game and come to a quick conclusion that we are not good enough, or they can say ‘let’s see what is happening’ and stand behind the team.”
Wenger was also defiant about his wider “philosophy” and has stated that he will not compromise on attacking football.
“That’s where I think in England you come to the wrong conclusions always – if England has not won on an international level in over 50 years, it’s maybe time at some stage to come to the right conclusions,” he said.
“To convince people that to win you have to play ugly is for me a wrong debate. If you take the biggest teams in the world, they all play football. Brazil has won how many World Cups? They play football. Germany play football. Real Madrid play football, Barcelona play football. Yes, we didn’t play well enough the way we want to play, I agree with you, but to come out to a conclusion that you have to kick the ball into the stand to win football games is the wrong conclusion.
“What is important is that you stick to your principles, even if it doesn’t go as well as you want it. Do you question yourself? Yes. But not question things that are absolutely not obvious because you lose one game. That’s where I believe it’s important that people around the team continue to believe in what we do.”
Wenger maintained his call for the transfer window to be closed before the season starts and outlined a fear that key players have been tapped up and distracted. “Many things happen in the last second, which I regret,” he said. “That’s why I believe it’s important that we change that and close all that stuff before the championship starts. Even in the games, you sit there before the games and even in players’ minds they have no clarity.
“Are they in? Are they out? Are they half in? Are they half out? Are they tapped up in the afternoon of the game by people who want to get them out? It’s not the way to work and it’s uncomfortable. Every single manager in the league would agree that it’s time to kick that out before the season starts and not continue to have players in the dressing room who are half out and half in.”
Wenger also admitted that he was forced to sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool after having many players entering the final year of their contract.
“We had to sell somebody and overall I believe that we are today in a strong financial situation as always and we have a good enough squad to compete,” he said.
Alexis Sanchez arrives back from South America on Thursday and the Arsenal manager does not expect any new injury problems and, even though Santi Cazorla wasnt included in his Premier League or Europa League squads, he had a positive update on his midfielder.
“He is having his first run today,” he said. “The flexibility of his ankle looks good, his mobility is good and now it’s back to getting back to full fitness without having any set-backs. So it’s very difficult to predict when he will be available again. I hope that after Christmas he will be available.”
Of Sanchez, he added: “I have no doubt about Alexis’ mind and mentality that people question. He needs to come back to full fitness, which he was not at Liverpool.”