Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal came away from their midweek draw against Swansea “disappointed” after the 2-2 stalemate appeared to end any chances they had of challenging for the Premier League title.
Arsenal’s campaign doesn’t get any easier as they welcome Manchester City to the Emirates in Saturday’s evening kick-off, with the memory of the 6-3 thrashing they received at the Etihad earlier in the season still fresh in their memory.
The Gunners’ season has veered off the rails in recent weeks, with their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich preceding the 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea last weekend. Wenger has stressed though that despite confidence being visibly low within the squad, they remain determined to win every match and can still challenge for the top of the table.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference, Wenger said: “The mood is of course disappointed but we want to prepare for the next game. We gave everything against Swansea.
“We want to focus on our own strengths and we need to have a top defensive performance [against City].
“After every game I don't win, I'm disappointed but I'm just determined to win the next game"
“It will be down to the quality of our collective defending tomorrow. We have to keep going despite our negative results.”
Who could be the next Arsenal manager?
Who could be the next Arsenal manager?
1/10 Jurgen Klopp
Having led Borussia Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final during his time in charge of the German side, Klopp is considered one of the most exciting managers in football. His successes have been achieved despite his club being in the financial shadow of Bayern Munich and achieved with a style of football pleasing to the eye. The 46-year-old has been at Dortmund since 2008 and could conceivably be tempted to leave.
2/10 Roberto Mancini
His time at Manchester City ended with an acrimonious departure and FA Cup final defeat. However, that shouldn't overshadow the fact he delivered a Premier League title and FA Cup during his spell at the Etihad. The Italian is now at Galatasaray where he steered the club through a Champions League group containing Juventus and Real Madrid before exiting to Chelsea.
3/10 Roberto Martinez
Perhaps the most ideal fit to replace Wenger would be the current Everton manager. With a limited budget Martinez managed to keep Wigan in the Premier League year after year and also brought them an FA Cup triumph. Despite handling players of limited ability, the Spaniard managed to get the Latics playing pretty football. With a better squad at his disposal at Everton, Martinez has seamlessly taken over from David Moyes and has Everton competing at the right end of the table.
4/10 Dragan Stojkovic
Wenger has named Stojkovic as an ideal replacement having worked with him in Japan at Nagoya Grampus. The Serbian continues to work at the Japanese club and has a philosophy identical to that of Wenger. Would be something of a leftfield choice - much like Wenger was when he arrived.
5/10 Louis Van Gaal
The current manager of the Netherlands will leave the national side after this summer's World Cup. The former boss of Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich has made no secret of his desire to manage in the Premier League and has been most readily linked with Tottenham. With seven league titles to his name and a Champions League medal from his time with Ajax, there's no doubting the 62-year-old's credentials.
6/10 Mauricio Pochettino
After replacing Nigel Adkins as manager of Southampton, few knew much about the Argentinean. But in the year-and-a-bit since, he's managed to turn the south coast club from relegation contenders to an expansive side with ambition. Blessed with an array of young talents at St Mary's, Pochettino appears to have utilised them to their potential with five Saints in the last England squad.
7/10 Michael Laudrup
While he might have been unceremoniously dumped by Swansea by text message, the Dane showed he has the potential to not just be remembered for being a great player. In his time in south Wales he delivered the first major trophy in the club's history through the League Cup and had the side playing an exciting brand of football.
8/10 Dennis Bergkamp
With a statue already outside the stadium, Bergkamp would risk tainting his legendary status if he were to return as manager. Despite insisting he wouldn't go into management after his retirement in 2006, the Dutchman has been slowly moving up the coaching ranks at Ajax and is currently the assistant to Frank De Boer. Would be a risk - but would certainly be popular with fans.
9/10 Fabio Capello
An impeccable record at club level was somewhat tainted on these shores by a difficult time in charge of England. Putting failures with the Three Lions aside, the Italian won seven league titles covering three different teams, plus the Champions League during his spell at AC Milan. The authoritarian is currently managing Russia who he guided to this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
10/10 Rafael Benitez
For whatever reason, the Spaniard has never been particularly popular among fans - aside from supporters of Liverpool. Delivering the Champions League against all-odds while at Anfield was the highlight of a hugely successful managerial career in which he also won two La Liga titles with Valencia and the Europa League with Chelsea. Now at Napoli, Benitez has the Italian team on course for Champions League qualification.
The 64-year-old also recognised Everton pose a threat to their top-four placing, but claimed that if the Toffees are genuine rivals for fourth, then Arsenal can still challenge the three sides above them.
“If people say Everton can catch us then we can catch the teams above us,” claimed Wenger.
“We have not given up believe me. It's our attitude tomorrow which will show that. We play at the Emirates where we show big strengths and we want to show that again tomorrow.”
Wenger recognised that while the 6-3 defeat on their visit to Manchester hurt their title aspirations, there were positives that the players could take out of their performance. The problem remains though that Arsenal have capitulated three times against their main rivals this season, while also losing to Manchester United in a season when the Red Devils are going through their worst run of form since the inception of the Premier League.
“There's plenty of positives to take from the game at the Etihad,” Wenger added. “But of course we must defend better.
“We haven't started the big games on the front foot and we want to change that tomorrow.
“There is no other priority other than coming first - that is still our target. We were 17 or 18 times top of the league this season. We need to continue to work well, we have been unlucky with injuries.”
The Frenchman also spoke kindly on referee Andre Marriner, after he mistakenly sent off Kieran Gibbs in the Chelsea defeat for a handball committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“I completely accept the fact that Andre Marriner is a good referee,” expressed Wenger. “He doesn't need to apologise to me.”
When asked whether defender Bacary Sagna, who is out of contract this season, will be leaving the club for a move to City, Wenger claimed that he remains confident of keeping hold of his countryman, but admitted that he will respect any decision that the right-back makes.
“I'm confident Sagna will stay but we will accept his decision and go with it,” Wenger said, before stressing that talk of a three-year contract offered by City to the France international would be classed as an illegal approach.
Wenger also confirmed that Aaron Ramsey, whose early season form saw the Gunners rise to the Premier League summit, will not feature this weekend but is slowly closing in on a return to action after his latest setback in his recovery from a thigh injury.
“Ramsey will be the first back but we still need to be cautious,” revealed the Arsenal manager. “Jack Wilshere needs more time.”