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EXCLUSIVE: Show more faith in Wenger, says former Arsenal boss

PUBLISHED: 14:53 03 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:34 07 September 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Didier Drogba of Chelsea scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

2009 Getty Images

Exclusive Interview by Jem Maidment George Graham may now be able to pick up his free bus pass, but he doesn t want Arsene Wenger to think of retiring just yet. The former Highbury legend - who turned 65 on Monday – was disappointed to see Arsenal s title

Exclusive Interview by Jem Maidment

George Graham may now be able to pick up his free bus pass, but he doesn't want Arsene Wenger to think of retiring just yet.

The former Highbury legend - who turned 65 on Monday - was disappointed to see Arsenal's title challenge suffer a massive blow at the hands of London rivals Chelsea last Sunday, but he has urged fans NOT to write the season off just yet.

In fact, he has come out fighting the Frenchman's corner after some damning analysis on Arsenal's shortcomings.

"It's an emotional time and, yes, it was a bad result," Graham tells Ham&High Sport.

"But, and I keep saying this, we must look at the big picture. One result in November does not mean we've nothing left.

"The bigger picture shows we have cause for large optimism.

"It was less than seven days ago that people were talking up our chances - we've made a great start to the season and prior to the game many were tipping us for the Premier League title.

"It was a big, big setback, no doubt. But let's try and be positive."

Graham produced powerful sides who could outmuscle opponents when they needed to - but also play expansive football.

It is a blend that he concedes Wenger still has to find with his current crop.

"On Sunday they did show some deficiencies in the team that have been there for a while, namely there is perhaps a lack of a physical presence.

"Chelsea have that in abundance - I think the term 'men against boys', which has been used a lot this week, is a bit strong. But we were physically found wanting against a very physical side.

"The Invincibles had power and skill - that team had everything - and Arsene Wenger knows that. Now he is striving for that with this side.

"It's just getting the right mix which is not an easy thing to do."

But Graham, who won a league title at Highbury in 1971 as a player before two more titles as manager of the club in 1989 and 1991, prefers to look at the positives.

"Arsene has been taking a lot of stick, some fans and journalists have had a go at him this week, but he has produced a team which is one of the most technically accompolished in the league.

"In fact, they are the best technical team in the Premier League. If they add that power to their game they'll get to where they want."

And while Chelsea had virtually a full-strength squad to choose from, Arsenal didn't, a point not lost on Graham.

"We should remember the likes of Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby - big guys - were missing from Sunday and we are still not quite in the position where we can replace a first choice player with a reserve."

While the hunt for the title is far from over, Graham admits it will not be easy to catch Chelsea.

"It is hard to win the title anyway," he adds. "And yes, as things stand, it will be a tough thing to do. It's not over, of course not, but Chelsea are in the driving seat.

But one thing the Scot is sure of, is that Arsene Wenger should be going nowhere.

"Does anyone really, in their right mind, think we should get a new manager," he asks increduosly. "Surely not. What absolute nonsense.

"I can not give him enough plaudits. The way he has got Arsenal playing - and the way the club is now internationally respected - is down to his skills as a manager.

"Arsenal have had rough times in the past and got through it and we will this time. We're still in a great position and will, at the very least, finish in the top four. We're also in the Last 16 of the Champions League.

"I expect us to respond in a positive manner when we play Stoke this weekend.

"And let me just say this: if Arsene were ever allowed to go - which he won't - there would be a very, very long queue of very big clubs waiting to snap him up.

"That doesn't sound like a manager who should go...


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