Bullish Wenger backs his young guns to deliver the title
BY JEM MAIDMENT Title expectations may be as low as they have ever been during Arsene Wenger s 12 years, but after last Saturday s underwhelming 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, the manager remains as bullish as ever. His young side, he continues to dru
BY JEM MAIDMENT
Title expectations may be as low as they have ever been during Arsene Wenger's 12 years, but after last Saturday's underwhelming 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, the manager remains as bullish as ever.
His young side, he continues to drum into doubters, will take this Premier League race to the wire. While many have begun to question whether the Frenchman is deluding himself and the 60,000 fans packing The Emirates every match, if current trends continue the facts back him up.
The 83 points accrued last term - with only three defeats in 38 Barclays Premier League games - was the second highest ever points total not to win the title. It was also 15 more points earned than in 2006-07 as the Gunners finished third, a place higher than 12 months before.
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Roll back 10 years when he won his first title with the club, and Wenger's side did it with five fewer points and three more defeats. It underlines just how high standards have risen in the past decade.
"For me, when you're in a big club, the important thing is that you are fighting for the title," said Wenger, who, for the first time, has received sustained criticism from fans paying some of the highest ticket prices in Europe left frustrated by a relative lack of activity in the transfer market.
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"If you don't win it, of course you are frustrated. After you can say it is not good enough to win it, okay. But you have to accept levels are very high - possibly the highest in the world - and in the end, two or three points is not a big gap.
"We were very close to doing it last season and were the most unlucky team, with so many bad injuries. We finished with 83 points last season, lost only three games. We have stability in our club which allows us to feel we will be better this year.
"I know we are not making the headlines with big names, but what is important is what we produce on the pitch."
Wenger even, it appeared, threw a verbal grenade at the neighbours in N17 - a sure-fire way of pleasing many red and white followers. "Is that a trophy to finish 12th and win the Carling Cup? Not for me," he said.
"You see the quality of a team after 38 games. In the Carling Cup or the FA Cup, you play five games to get to in the final and could be drawn against second division teams. But you have no quality and are not there at the end of the championship."
Three points in their first league outing of the season, regardless of the alarming way the Gunners tired in the final 20 minutes as West Brom searched for an equaliser, were most welcome with so many players still missing.
Wenger, remember, is still dealing with the remnants of last season's shocking injury list.
Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Eduardo (ankle) have not played since January and February respectively.
Half a year on they are still some way off first team action.
Cesc Fabregas is not expected to return until the visit of Steve McClaren's FC Twente on Wednesday in the Champions League third qualifying round, second leg, while Abou Diaby, of whom there are growing expectations as the Spaniard's defensive partner in the centre, is absent for at least another fortnight and probably longer.