Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger talks about his new relationship with Sir Alex, the arrival of David Moyes and his side’s new found discipline in defense ahead of the big game against Manchester United on Sunday.
Arsenal are flying high at the moment and perhaps after a long time people are expecting them to get a positive result from their visit to Old Trafford. Manchester United have had the upper hand in this fixture for the past few seasons, especially at home where Arsenal have lost on their last five visits, but the Gunners are coming into this game high on confidence after defeating Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in their last two games.
For Arsene Wenger this will be a new experience as this will be the first time during his tenure at the London that he will face a Manchester United side without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. The rivalry between two of the most celebrated managers in English football had mellowed down in recent times and Wenger revealed that the duo enjoy a more ‘peaceful’ and ‘serene’ relationship at the moment.
“It will be a new [experience], because for the past 17 years it was the case [that we were opponents]. It will be a bit strange.
“I will see him, certainly yes. It’s always easier [when you are not direct opponents], it’s a bit more peaceful because we don’t fight against each other.
“Now we meet each other only at the big managers’ meeting to speak about how we can improve football and not how can Manchester United beat Arsenal or how Arsenal can beat Man United. So of course it will be a bit more peaceful and more serene.” – The Arsenal manager said.
The man who replaced Sir Alex at Old Trafford this season, David Moyes, has been under severe scrutiny since his arrival. United have made a slow start to their campaign and are currently eight points behind league leaders Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger feels it is still too early to judge his performance at his new club.
“David Moyes has shown great competence at Everton so you need to leave him time to really get a grip on Man United, and he is slowly doing that. You see it now in the results.
“When a guy has been there for 26 years and goes, it takes time for the guy who comes in. It is very dangerous and difficult for the manager who comes in. For me, Moyes is dealing very well with the situation.
“It is too early to say what the difference is [between Moyes and Ferguson]. Personally I have not played against Man United [under Moyes]. I have seen them on television but it is never the same to play against them.” – Wenger added.
Despite the change of guard at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger insists that this game remains the biggest test for his side. He believes that the strength of this current side will be judged based on this game.
“It is still one of the benchmarks of the season where you judge how strong you are,” said Wenger. “People analyse everything, your behaviour and draw conclusions after the game. It is of course still one of the big games.
“You can gain confidence and credit for your behaviour.
“We had periods where we did very well at Old Trafford and recently, yes, we have not done so well. It is a good opportunity to show that we have improved and that we can win there.
“That is our target, to go there and win the game.” – Wenger told the press.
Unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger faced questions regarding Aaron Ramsey and his brilliant form this season. On being asked whether the Welshman can be considered as one of the best based on his current performances, Wenger said –
“I don’t like always these kinds of conclusions. I think Aaron Ramsey is a very strong player, he plays with a lot of dedication, with a huge desire and focus to improve and that is the most important thing. How much do I rate him? I think I have shown that in the past, even when he was hugely criticised I always played him. That shows you how much I admire him and how much I think he is a great player.”
There were also questions regarding the fitness of Olivier Giroud and whether the extreme workload on Arsenal’s main striker is affecting him physically. But the Arsenal manager dismissed those concerns and insisted that Giroud is physically capable of handling such pressure.
“He is [being asked to do a lot]. He has the physical resilience to cope with that, he has good stamina, a strong body and has a great appetite for the game. He has not been recognised for a long time in his career, he is very hungry to play in every game and he can cope with it. I don’t see any sign of fatigue.” – Wenger insisted.
The Frenchman also warned his side against complacency after such a good run of results. Wenger reminded that despite the good start to the season, Arsenal far from winning any trophy and would need to maintain this level of concentration and performance in order to win silverware at the end of this season.
“We have made a lot of improvements at the back in our defensive game. We have done well in the last two games, but there is a lot to do.
“We cannot come to the conclusion that we are in a position where we can relax – we have a lot more to achieve. We have won nothing at all, we have just won two games, and what is important is what we achieve in the future.
“The defensive urgency, the defensive focus of everybody from the first to the last minute [has improved]. You couldn’t feel in the Dortmund game that our concentration level dropped at any moment. For the first time from the first to the last minute our concentration was at a very high level.” – The Frenchman exclaimed.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have been in good form this season and have formed a solid partnership at the back. The duo helped in keeping two clean sheets in their last two games against the world class attackers of Liverpool and Dortmund and will look to keep the likes of Rooney and Robin van Persie at bay on Sunday. Wenger heaped praise on his defenders and expressed his delight at how well Mertesacker and Koscielny complement each other at the back.
“It does work [as a partnership], because they have the quality individually, they have the confidence and they certainly complement each other well, and also maybe because the whole team focuses to help them out as well,” he said.
“We rush our game less, we do not panic, we have a bit more confidence and it is another good opportunity to show that on Sunday [at Man United].
“The confidence level is not set and certain for ever, it goes up and down with recent results of the team. Because our recent results have been stronger, the confidence levels will be higher. The commitment and the resilience need to be high as well.” – Wenger said.