Arsene Wenger hits back at Gary Neville: Arsenal manager attacks punditry after 'arrogance' slur

'I love that they go on television, but I would like them to help people to love football even more'

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The Independent Football

Three days after being described as arrogant by Gary Neville, Arsène Wenger refused to accept criticism that his Arsenal side are not defensive-minded enough.

After Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday, the Arsenal manager was on the end of a scathing critique from the Sky pundit and England coach Neville, for what he perceived as Wenger’s failure to bring in a powerful defensive midfielder and inability to change tactics when up against the Premier League’s top sides.

Neville said: “To think that you are not going to adapt your team, to change to impact on the other teams that you’re playing against and their strengths. It is either naive or arrogance.”

 

In response, Wenger said: “I don’t know what that has to do with arrogance. I just try to do my job and I leave it to other people to assess my work.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I could prove to you it’s not necessarily right but let’s not go into that debate.

“You know, in football you have to accept that anybody can be right. [But] since January, we have conceded fewer goals than anybody else.

“The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, that it is documented and worked out before. Especially when it is football specialists. I accept you can be right and I can be wrong. But what you do not want is just an opinion that comes out, just because you feel like that.

“Look, I am not against opinion, people can say they don’t think Arsenal is good enough, I accept that. [But] it is dangerous to say that, ‘He will never be a player,’ especially when the comment has come from people in football.

“What is a concern is that it puts pressure on players. I believe that we, who are in a football job, people who have been in the game, I love that they go on television, but I would like them to help people to love football even more.”

On football commentators in general, Wenger added: “When I watch a game sometimes, the guy doesn’t talk about the game. He tells you about his life and what he thinks about football.

“I like to know that [Morgan] Schneiderlin passes to [Michael] Carrick. But sometimes I watch games and at the end I don’t know the players who have played, because the guys don’t comment on the game any more. The first mission is to educate people, [to say] yes, that is fantastic.

“The guy should explain things that the guy who has not played at the top level can understand and to get people to really love the game.

“For me, that is the first mission. To come out and say, ‘Oh yes, this game is great’. Some do it very well but the other way I don’t like so much.”

The most common criticism of Arsenal in recent years is that they are simply not defensive-minded enough, a view Wenger does not accept.

Arsenal face Newcastle tomorrow at St James’ Park, their fourth match in a Premier League season that has so far returned just six home wins from 30 matches.

“Teams defend better [at the start of the season] and they are all quick on the break,” Wenger said. “They are fresh and mentally not tired, so they don’t give up. Everybody has hope.

“The only team that looks to score for fun at the moment is Manchester City but the others? I don’t know. Maybe the teams are well organised and quick in transition.”

But he has noticed a difference in the way opposition teams approach matches at the Emirates.

“They are playing deeper. Much deeper. That is why the first goal is important in these kinds of game. They play deeper and, as long as you don’t manage to score, they are quick on the break and they close you down very quickly.”

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