Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in tetchy mood ahead of clash with Bayern Munich
Wenger involved in several heated exchanges with journalists at press conference
Arsenal lost to second-tier Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Saturday
Wenger says he is fully focused on the Bayern game and urged his side to keep clean sheet
Arsenal have been dumped out of the FA Cup by second-tier Blackburn, knocked out of England’s third ranked competition by lowly Bradford and now they have German giants Bayern Munich to contend with in the last 16 of the European Champions League.
So perhaps it is no wonder their manager Arsene Wenger was in irritable mood when he met journalists ahead of their first leg encounter with Bayern, at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
An avalanche of negative press appeared in the wake of their cup exit to Blackburn. The second division side withstood 26 Arsenal attempts on goal and scored with their only purposeful attack of the game.
But is was a question about a newspaper report that claimed he was about to sign a two-year contract extension that really irked Wenger.
“That is the wrong information and I work for 16 years in England and I think I deserve a bit more credit than wrong information that has only one intention: to harm,” he told the press conference.
“If it is good information which comes from nowhere it is all right but this is wrong information that comes from nowhere and it is completely wrong.”
Several times Wenger engaged heatedly with reporters, saying to one: “I look at you not because you give information, I do not know if it is you, I do not know where the information comes from. Why do you look at me? I just thought you had given this information out.
“This is a pre-match conference for the Champions League, if you want to talk about Saturday, that press conference has been made after the game. Can we get some questions about Tuesday’s game? That would be very nice.”
Arsenal’s defeat to Blackburn came just a few months after arguably one of the most humiliating nights of Wenger’s reign, when they lost on penalties in the League Cup to Bradford City, who play in the fourth division of English football.
The tournament, seen as third most prestigious in the country behind the English Premier League and the FA Cup, has only recently become a priority for Arsenal after their trophy drought stretched to seven years.
But despite fielding a full strength team at Bradford, the Gunners went out on penalties. After another defeat to lower league opposition on Saturday, when Wenger rested a trio of his best players, some fans are openly calling for his head.
“I’ve been accused of not taking the FA Cup seriously. I won the FA Cup four times. Who has won it more? Give me one name,” he added.
“The second thing, we were accused of not putting a strong team out. That’s an insult to the players who started the game – there were 11 international players. We accept we have to take the blame, but the rest you have to put into perspective.
“We are fully focused on tomorrow’s game,” Wenger added. “You can’t compare the FA Cup with the Champions League. We must focus on our own quality and we have to put into our heads that we have 180 minutes to qualify.
“It is vital to keep a clean sheet. Nil-nil is not a disaster at home, but of course we will try to score goals. We have a way to play that everyone in the team knows. We must play with a positive mentality.”
Wenger insisted he was not worried by the criticism of his team, who sold their captain and star striker Robin van Persie to Premier League leaders Manchester United before the start of the current season.
“What is important is to forget what people say and focus on our strengths,” he said. “We play for Arsenal in the last 16 of the Champions League. We have reached this stage over the past few years [every season since 2003-04].
“We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion. There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.
“What is important is not what people say. It is what happens on the pitch.”