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Arsenal can now fight Chelsea and Man City on pitch and transfer market, insists Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sunday, March 16, 2014
6:00 AM

Manager Arsene Wenger admits that the emergence of big spending Chelsea and Manchester City over the last decade had left Arsenal as title outsiders but that now his side are ready to challenge for trophies and transfers.

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The Frenchman will today take charge of his 999th game as Gunners boss in a north London derby against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, while next week’s milestone will come against Chelsea and the two games will play a big part in determining Arsenal’s title credentials.

The 64-year-old is also yet to commit his future to Arsenal with his current contract set to run out in the summer, but he hinted that he will remain at the Emirates, because he believes the prospect of major honours are once again in sight.

“I have the energy and, believe me, the excitement, but I want to do well,” Wenger said.

“I do not want to stay here because I am here for a long time. I want to stay here because I feel I respond to the expectation level of our fans and of people around the club. It’s as simple as that.

“People want us to win the championship, people want us to win trophies and that’s what I want to do.

“I accepted to stay here for a long time, knowing that we had little chance to win the Premiership, but I think now we are in the position again where we can fight with other clubs to sign big players.”

Wenger’s first nine years in north London were trophy-laden, including the famous title-winning Invincibles team of 2003-04, but the FA Cup triumph in 2005 remains his last success.

The nine years since have been barren in the silverware department but when assessments are made of the two periods Wenger believes he will emerge favourably.

“I believe that when one day I look back at the first years, I will be very proud of what I did,” he said. “The second period has been a more difficult period, a trophy-less period, but it has been much more difficult, much more sensitive and we needed much more commitment and strengths than the first part of my stay here.

“I went for a change that I knew would be difficult because we had to fight with clubs who could survive loses of £150million a year, and we had to make £30m [to finance the stadium payments] and on top of that we had people saying ‘you have to beat them’.

“If I ask you tomorrow to race with Usain Bolt and win the race, you will realise quickly it is difficult.

“I think we can be proud of the consistency of our achievement at the club.”

That Wenger’s 1,000th game as Arsenal boss will come against Chelsea and old rival Jose Mourinho – whose arrival in England coincided with power shift across the capital, sparked by benefactor Roman Abramovich’s billions – will have little consequence for the Frenchman.

“That game will be important not because it’s my 1,000th game,” he said, adding: “It is because what is at stake for our season and our club.”

But first there is the not insignificant matter of today’s north London derby and Wenger said: “The next four games will decide that we are in there. Let’s go step by step, make a difference to be in the top four and after go for more. The first step is against Tottenham.”

He added: “This year, March is a very important month for us. The way we’ll deal with the month of March will certainly be decided by the way we deal with the Tottenham game.”

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