December 5 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Arsene Wenger is ready to usher in a new sense of expectation at Arsenal and one he hopes can lead to a sustained challenge for the Premier League title after years of fighting against doom-mongers.
Even as recent as the first game of the season, which saw the Gunners lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, his critics rounded on him in the wake of a series of high-profile failures to land a marquee summer signing.
But the tables have turned in the Frenchman’s favour since as he guided the north Londoners, once more, into the Champions League group stages, smashed the club’s record transfer fee to lure £43million playmaker Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and has seen his side embark on a four-game winning run in the league, which this morning sees them sitting on top of the table.
To add to his position of strength, on the eve of the 63-year-old’s 17th anniversary in charge of the team, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke yesterday threw his full backing behind the manager.
It threw up renewed questions of whether Wenger will extend his tenure beyond his current contract, which is set to expire in the summer.
Now English football’s longest serving boss, Wenger hinted he would have no qualms about penning a new deal, though insisted there is no rush.
But Arsenal, who travel to Swansea this evening, are once again being talked of as potential title challengers, rather than top-four also-rans.
It’s all a rather pleasant change for the manager, who in recent seasons has been the subject of severe scrutiny, not least because of a eight-year trophy drought and successive campaigns were his best players have been sold.
He said: “What is important is that level of expectation is high. In recent years, because we have lost players, we had to face a lower level of expectation and that was quite hard for me.
“Everybody needs that [expectation], but believe me I have worked harder in the last four or five years, against scepticism, against players moving out. It was very difficult.
“It is more difficult to raise enthusiasm behind the team because the belief is not completely there, but the fact that the level of expectation being high is a good sign because it means people think you have a good chance.
“The target of any team is to win it all, but I don’t think any team in England can say ‘we are going to win it all’. The competition is so open, so tight, it could be down to injuries or even goal difference. It is the most open season for a while.
“At the moment, if I tell you we cannot do it then you will tell me I am completely stupid. It will be down to consistency, getting the injured players back and then I believe we have a good chance, of course.”
Wenger continued: “Until 2005 we were a team who could compete every year to win the championship. When we moved into the new stadium, it is not a coincidence that suddenly we were a bit [less competitive]. Even if some seasons were close to winning the championship, we couldn’t win it. Maybe we missed that little bit of experience and quality that makes the difference in April.
“Let’s see. I think if we are in April this time competing for the championship, we will be in a much stronger position than the years before.”