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FA & League Cups

Wenger doesn't know if his players are any good

Arsenal's inconsistency leaves manager unsure whether to strengthen

If Arsenal went on to win the Barclays Premier League, Champions' League and FA Cup treble this season, Arsène Wenger, the club's manager, would not be surprised in the slightest.

Nor would it shock Wenger if his team fail to win any trophies for the eighth successive year. The Frenchman openly admits he doesn't know what his players are capable of achieving. He has no clue whether they have the quality to end Arsenal's trophy drought, and he freely bemoans the lack of consistency which has blighted the Gunners for so long.

Speaking ahead of today's game at Swansea, marking his 16th season in the FA Cup, Wenger said: "I find it difficult to analyse the players and to know what they are capable of. When you score seven goals in one game and only an own goal in the next one, of course it is hard.

"We have good offensive potential and that shows in some games. We are not consistent enough, though.

"I change my mind whether I need to go into the transfer market from game to game. That is because the players have a basic quality, but the performance of the players is analysed and you think, what could we do to be better?

"If you look at the Newcastle game, you would say fantastic. If you look at the Southampton game, you can come out and say we need to strengthen our offensive department. Football is like that."

Wenger has been uncharacteristically critical of his players in the past week. After that 1-1 draw at Southampton, he blamed his team for showing a lack of sharpness, desire and purpose, qualities he often praises his players for even after the darkest of defeats.

If Arsenal do go on to land a trophy this season, Wenger hopes it could be the catalyst they need to push on and fight competitively for the Premier League title next season.

"There is a change in a player once he wins a trophy," Wenger said. "There is an aura around the team that is built through the history of the team. It makes them feel together, and strong. It is an energy that builds up inside, that you sense.

"A trophy would give the players more confidence, of course. I believe if you can prove you are consistent, that improves the confidence, after that it is about winning the trophy. For us, it is important to fight for the championship.

"That is where it lies, the strength of the club and of the team. The strength of the club here demands you fight for the title."

Wenger also stressed another "basic requirement is to keep the top players". To that end, he has defended the £95,000-a-week wages being demanded by Theo Walcott, the striker, who is still to sign an extended contract at the Emirates. "He is not the only one who gets more in a week than the Prime Minister gets in a year. I cannot change that," he said.

"It shocks me that the prime minister does not make enough money, but as long as our business is organised in a way where we do not need any help from anybody, and pay our people with our resources, it is defendable economically."

With the urgent need to win a trophy, it is likely that Wenger will name a strong side for the visit to Wales, though he will be without Abou Diaby, who has resumed full training after injury but is not match-ready.

Swansea City v Arsenal is on ESPN today, kick-off 1.30pm

Djourou heads to Hannover

The Arsenal defender Johan Djourou yesterday joined the Bundesliga side Hannover on loan until the end of the season.

The 25-year-old Switzerland international has played 144 times for Arsenal since making his debut in a 2-1 League Cup victory against Man City in October 2004. However, he has made just two senior appearances this season, captaining the Gunners in their Capital One Cup victories over Coventry and Reading.