Defiant Wenger expects Arsenal to avoid Euro exit

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can still salvage their calamitous Champions League campaign as they prepare for Tuesday’s do-or-die showdown with Dinamo Zagreb.

Wenger’s side are on brink of a stunning failure to make the knockout stages for the first time in 16 years after three defeats from their four Group F fixtures.

The Gunners must beat Croatian side Dinamo at the Emirates Stadium to keep their hopes alive, but even that won’t be enough to avoid elimination if second-placed Olympiakos, who sit six points ahead of Arsenal, draw or win at Bayern Munich.

Yet if results go Arsenal’s way in midweek, they will travel to Olympiakos for their final group match on December 9 knowing a win could send them through depending on the margin of victory.

And Wenger remains convinced Arsenal can find a way to stage one of the great European escape acts.

“We will give absolutely everything to stay in the Champions League,” Wenger said.

“I think we still have a strong chance but it will be very tight now.

“Even if we had beaten Bayern, we would be in a position where we have to beat Olympiakos, if we beat Zagreb at home. Unless Olympiakos make a result at Bayern, which is not impossible as well.”

While Wenger is optimistic about Arsenal’s chances, he acknowledges the north Londoners have only themselves to blame for their precarious predicament.

While a heavy defeat at Bayern in their last European outing could be excused given the quality of the opposition, there was no explaining away lacklustre losses against Dinamo and Olympiakos.

“It is a reality that in two games, against Bayern, we took three points (but) we have created our own problems before that,” Wenger said.

– Major obstacle –

Adding to Arsenal’s desperation to qualify is the potential that they may otherwise finish third and have to compete in the Europa League.

Playing in Europe’s second tier competition, with its hectic schedule and Thursday night matches, could be a major obstacle to Wenger’s desire to challenge for the Premier League title.

But for now he is just focused on giving Arsenal the best possible chance to advance.

“If you ask my deep gut feeling, I want to stay in the Champions League,” Wenger said.

“Let’s just try to win our last two games.”

Arsenal, without a win in their last three games in all competitions, endured the worst possible warm-up for Tuesday’s clash as they crashed to a surprise 2-1 Premier League defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Having blown the lead given to them by Olivier Giroud, Wenger’s team still had a chance to rescue a point when they won a second half penalty, only for Santi Cazorla to blaze over.

As if suffering the damaging result wasn’t bad enough, Wenger, already without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, left the Hawthorns with two new names added to his growing injury list.

Francis Coquelin sustained a knee problem and Mikel Arteta suffered a recurrence of a calf injury, with both midfielders doubtful to recover in time for the Dinamo match.

With those injuries in mind, Wenger may be forced to rush Wales midfielder Ramsey back into the team after his hamstring problem.

Dinamo will be without Macedonia midfielder Arijan Ademi after he was given a four-year ban by UEFA after failing a drugs test.

Ademi, who insists he is innocent, tested positive for a banned substance following Zagreb’s 2-1 win over Arsenal in September.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsene Wenger splits from wife Annie after months of speculation

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has separated from his wife Annie as revealed by The Sun Newspaper. The newspaper claims that the 65-year-old manager and his 59-year-old wife parted ways after a judge in Paris issued a ‘separation of bodies’ which means that the pair are free to see other people.

PAY-Arsene-Wenger-and-wife-split

The couple have an 18-year-old daughter and had been in a long-term relationship before marrying each other in 2010. They had not been pictured together since 2013.

A source revealed to the Sun, “They have divided up their assets and agreed a financial package to separate. They have not been happy for a while, and they decided this was the best course of action to take.”

According to the divorce papers filed in Wenger’s hometown in France, Annie and the Arsenal boss haven’t been together since June of this year.

Podolski hits out at Wenger

Lukas Podolski slammed Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger for lacking “respect” in an acrimonious parting shot after his move to Inter Milan this week.

“He said nothing to me. He did not call me or say goodbye. I don’t need flowers or a kiss from him. But it’s about respect, about saying goodbye. For me respect is important,” the German World Cup player told The Sun newspaper.

Podolski, who made just 82 appearances in two years at Arsenal, was officially unveiled by Inter Milan on Thursday days after completing a loan deal until the end of the season.

His comments indicated that he wants a permanent move from Arsenal, though Wenger strongly denied he had snubbed the player.

“I did everything for the club I possibly could have. I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I did not get drunk in a club,” added Podolski.

The 29-year-old striker praised the club and their supporters. “I wish all of Arsenal and their amazing fans the very best for this season and I see myself as a Gunner.”

But he singled out Wenger for attack after a frustrating season in which he has had few chances to play.

Silence is “his way,” said Podolski.

“I don’t want communication every day as I am a professional. You do it on the training ground. But when you move somewhere, you get a message,” he said.

“Maybe he had other problems with me but I don’t know.”

“He told me he did not want me to go just before the transfer window, but never said anything else after that.”

Podolski said he had no complaint about being a substitute. “Absolutely not. When you have three games in a week and you don’t play, you have to think about it, though.

“Maybe I made mistakes, I don’t know. I trained well and wanted to play.”

The German also said he had been happy at Arsenal. “I played 82 games and scored 31 goals plus assists. That’s not bad. But when you don’t get a chance you cannot show what you can do — and the last five months I hardly played.”

“Wenger said to me I was the best finisher at the club. Let me play, then.”

Podolski said other players were asking him “what was going on”.

“The big moment was after the Champions League. I played a very good game against Galatasaray and then I was on the bench again. I knew I had to move.”

Podolski said he had spoken with former Brazilian international Ronaldo about Inter. “I had other options but Inter felt right,” he said.

Wenger denied any lack of respect to Podolski.

“I deny it completely. I had many conversations with him,” said Wenger. “Without my agreement, he couldn’t go on loan.”

“Every club has its internal discipline and rules and it doesn’t necessarily need to be public.”

The Arsenal coach said he had not ruled out the possibility of Podolski returning to the club when his loan deal expired.

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger confronted by angry fan during Arsenal loss

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was confronted by an angry supporter during his side’s 2-0 loss at Southampton in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.

The man was seen to run towards the dug-outs and apparently taunt Wenger towards the end of the game at St Mary’s, which enabled Southampton to pull three points clear of Arsenal in the race for a top-four finish.

Wenger and his assistant Steve Bould gestured for the man, who was wearing jeans and a purple hooded top, to move away before he was eventually led off by stadium stewards.

Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought under Wenger by beating Hull City in last season’s FA Cup final.

But the Frenchman, who has been at Arsenal since 1996, has come under pressure from supporters after some disappointing results this season.

Fans unfurled a banner calling for him to stand down during Arsenal’s 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in November, while he was barracked by supporters as he boarded a train after last month’s 3-2 loss at Stoke City.

Wenger eyes top four berth as Arsenal hit stride

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are gathering momentum at the right time after they enhanced their prospects of qualifying for the Champions League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at West Ham.

First half goals from Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck at Upton Park on Sunday were enough to help Arsenal leapfrog West Ham in the Premier League table.

And, after a spluttering campaign, the Gunners are back on course to finish in the top four and seal a coveted place in Europe’s elite club competition.

“The Champions League is vital for us,” Wenger said. “We have done it 17 years so I’m entitled at least to believe we can do it.

“It’s still all to do. When you look at the league, everyone fights very hard for it. Southampton, Tottenham, Man United, so many teams who can fight for these positions.

“I always had that belief, but it’s far from done. We just want to win the next game and be consistent in our performances.

Another victory at fourth placed Southampton on New Year’s Day would be a further step in the right direction for Wenger’s side.

“If you look at our recent results we look to be more stable. We have a big game in front of us now at Southampton,” Wenger added.

With the transfer window set to open on January 1, Wenger knows there will be speculation about moves in and out of the Emirates Stadium, but the Gunners boss is focused on getting his injured players fit rather than any wheeling and dealing.

Out-of-favour Germany striker Lukas Podolski continues to be strongly linked with a January move to Inter Milan.

But Wenger has played down the prospect of him moving on and is more concerned at seeing the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere return from spells on the sidelines.

“There’s nothing concrete there with Lukas,” Wenger added.

“At the moment nobody goes out. Ozil is coming back at the back of January, so of course there is a lot of competition up front.”

– Allardyce rues decision –

West Ham were surprise challengers for a Champions League place before back-to-back defeats derailed their charge.

But boss Sam Allardyce is hoping for a response against West Bromwich Albion to mark the start of the new year as he looks to get his side back on track.

“The players have once again given their all. I cannot question their commitment all season,” Allardyce said.

“We have to go again now and we have only lost two games.

“Of course we want to bounce back against West Brom now.”

Allardyce was also frustrated that referee Neil Swarbrick and his assistant ruled out Alex Song’s early strike due to Diafra Sakho standing offside in front of Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

“If we’d been allowed that goal we wouldn’t have lost. We would have kicked on and Arsenal would have found life very difficult from then on,” Allardyce said.

“I’ve not spoken to the ref because I don’t see any point in confronting him when you know you’re 100 per cent right and he hasn’t had the visuals. You can’t get anything out of telling him how wrong he’s been.

“Going on what we were told at the start of the season, they got it horribly wrong. He (Sakho) wasn’t in the eye-line of the keeper. He didn’t touch the ball.

“Yes he was offside, but we’ve seen so many of those allowed as goals. I’ve not seen one ‘not given’.

“Can you tell me what is an offside? Now I’m totally and utterly confused and bewildered. There are far too many inconsistencies.”

Arsenal’s second largest shareholder Usmanov tells Wenger to wise up

Arsenal’s second largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov has warned Arsene Wenger to start learning from his mistakes as the pressure mounts on the Gunners’ boss.

The Gunners have lifted just one trophy in nine-and-a-half years and a 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United on Saturday marked the team’s worst start to a season since 1982.

And Usmanov, who owns 30 percent of the Premier League club, believes Wenger is letting his purist footballing principles stand in the way of Arsenal’s success.

 

Wenger says he has no regrets for pushing Mourinho

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says he does not regret shoving Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in a heated touchline spat.

The pair clashed after a challenge by Gary Cahill on Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez in Chelsea’s 2-0 home win.

“What is to regret after that? I wanted to go from A to B and somebody confronted me without any sign of welcome,” Wenger said.

“B was get to Sanchez to see if he was injured. Was it a push? A little one. You can see when I really try to push.”

Wenger and Mourinho were separated by fourth official Jon Moss at Stamford Bridge and, as referee Martin Atkinson dealt with the issue at the time, it is not expected the Football Association will take any further action.

Chelsea boss Mourinho said he wanted to “forget” about the incident with the Frenchman, and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

“It becomes heated because this is a big game, big clubs, big rivals, and important match for both teams. These conditions make a game of emotions,” he said.

READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/29500091