15 July 2017

Arsene Wenger is in relaxed mood in Australia despite growing pressure of Premier League expectancy

ARSENE WENGER had the relaxed mood of a man who had kept his seat on the throne.

In the bowels of the ANZ Stadium, where Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to 2003 Rugby World Cup glory, the Arsenal manager had just taken charge of his first game since his own personal triumph.

Arsene Wenger is in relaxed mood as he takes his squad to Australia on their pre-season tour
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Arsene Wenger could even poke fun at getting asked about his future or Alexis Sanchez
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With his new two-year contract signed, the Frenchman could poke fun at getting asked about his future or Alexis Sanchez and joked about his jetlag in Australia.

The 67-year-old was as cheerful as he has been since his contract saga overshadowed last season.

That episode is one which he admits was judged badly and will not be repeated.

There was talk of dropping out of the top four being a “catalyst for change” by chief executive Ivan Gazidis, or even the arrival of a director of football.

There have also been appointments behind the scenes.

Former keeper Jens Lehmann has arrived on the coaching staff with ex-Liverpool fitness guru Darren Burgess, while legal boffin Huss Fahmy will work on player contracts.

Former keeper Jens Lehmann joined the Arsenal coaching team
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger could be preparing a club-record bid for the 18-year-old
Supporters were promised a summer of change after Arsenal’s failings last season
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Arsenal arrive in Sydney and Arsene Wenger talks to press as stars mobbed

But if Arsenal fans are expecting a radical, fresh approach, which they could be entitled to after 13 years without a title, they need to think again.

Wenger, in a wide- ranging first newspaper interview since signing his new deal, said: “The appointments do not change a lot — the philosophy remains the same, the way we work basically.

“They will bring their qualities and that is why I appointed them, but the spirit and the way we want to play football will not change.”

Notice the use of the word ‘I’. You might expect Gazidis to have made the appointments. But no.

Make no mistake, this ship is being steered by Captain Wenger, still in command despite mutiny from some sections in the stands.

Arsene Wenger will not the change the style of football
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He claimed he always wanted to stay, regardless of the uncertainty created over the new deal.

And Wenger admitted it was his mistake to delay the announcement — and revealed why he chose to stay.
He added: “I love Arsenal Football Club and always want to give my all for the club.

“I had the choice to continue to work or work somewhere else and when I had to take that decision it was always an obvious one.

“I won’t tell you when I decided finally to sign, because I don’t even know personally.

“My conviction was always there, my desire was always there, but I wanted to give myself some time.

“In fact, I think it was a mistake because it brought in some criticism and raised some uncertainty.

The signing of Alexandre Lacazette has boosted morale amongst the fans
Alexis Sanchez is wanted by Manchester City and Chelsea
Arsene Wenger remains hopeful over the future of Alexis Sanchez
PA:Press Association

“It raised some opinions against me and it was a difficult moment, but I was focused on my job.

“It didn’t disturb me personally, but maybe it had an influence on the team at certain moments.”

Some of those poor displays sparked vicious criticism and Wenger reacted furiously on the same day as their FA Cup final triumph over Chelsea.

He has already maintained values are more important than trophies during the pre-season tour to Australia, despite knowing fans will turn if results go badly.

And they have a tough start to the season, with trips to Stoke and Liverpool in the first month and a huge six-pointer at Stamford Bridge in September.

Wenger said: “You have to take that criticism, but we finished with 75 points, a point behind Liverpool, and we won the FA Cup so you cannot say we have been far away.

Appointments do not change a lot – the philosophy is the same

Arsene Wenger

Arsenal's record £52m signing Alexandre Lacazette scores on debut

“We live in a job where we accept we want to win the next game and when that doesn’t happen you get criticised.

“We all accept pressure — you live with that and I’ve lived with that for a very long time.

“But when the game starts you want the fans to support the team.

“Before the game and after, anyone can say what they like.

“Today you have to accept that everyone has very harsh opinions about everything and we have to live with that.

“You want the fans to support the team, that’s all.”

Gooners, however, may take a dim view to saying that finishing just behind Liverpool is some sort of success — particularly after a diet of silverware and glory in the first part of Wenger’s two-decade reign.

Arsene Wenger won his tenth trophy as Arsenal boss with the FA Cup last weekend
Arsenal did manage to end last season with silverware after lifting the FA Cup
Rex Features

The Frenchman added: “We basically had three parts to last season.

“The first part was positive, the second part was worryingly negative and the third part was extremely positive.

“We finished with a trophy, which looked at some stage very difficult for us to reach because we played Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final.

“Now our first aim is to carry on from the final stage of the season and to start in a strong way.

“The last four years we’ve had difficult starts.

“It’s important for us to have a good start, even though we have a difficult programme when we kick off the season.”

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is claimed to be the man behind that bid
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger eyes a Premier League title chase next season
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With matches on Thursday nights in the Europa League, Wenger will need to defy the fixture list and logic to finish top of the pile.

But he said: “Don’t imagine we prepare not to win the league.

“We prepare to have a chance to win the league, but I would say we are at a level of other teams that can win the league as well.

“At the end of the day, in the top six or seven, none of them will tell you that they don’t want to win the league.”

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