Arsene Wenger says Arsenal must show character against Tottenham

 

Arsene Wenger maintains it would be "criminal" for Arsenal to just sit and feel sorry for themselves ahead of Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have taken a battering in the past 10 days, slumping to a 4-0 defeat in Milan which all but ended their Champions League hopes before then crashing out of the FA Cup at Sunderland.

By contrast, Spurs are flying high under Harry Redknapp, currently 10 points ahead of their rivals in third place and face a home replay with Stevenage to make it through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Wenger, though, insists now is not the time for self pity as his squad look for a response to keep themselves in the top four ahead of Chelsea, who host Bolton tomorrow.

"No matter what we say at the moment it will be printed in a negative way. It is up to us to transform that into a positive way," the Arsenal boss said.

"You can't complain. We are in a fantastic job and we have a big game in front of us - to feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal.

"We have a good opportunity to show that we have character, that we have the mental qualities to play for this club and let's go for it.

"When you are in our situation at the moment, it is important you show faith in your players and stick with them.

"We live in a world where everybody is positive when it goes well, but life is not only ups, it is ups and down, successful lives are how people respond when you are down."

Former players Emmanuel Petit and David O'Leary have weighed in with their thoughts on the current Arsenal situation, with former boss George Graham suggesting Wenger needed to radically overhaul his squad in the summer.

The Frenchman, though, is not about to be drawn into a war of words.

"I do not need to respond to every single opinion. Everyone has the right to have an opinion, it does not mean they are right," he said.

"Overall I believe you can understand everyone has an opinion because they care about the club and they want it do well. It is down to us to make sure that we do well."

While Spurs fans may be revelling in their status as London's current leading club, Wenger will reserve his judgment until May.

"You judge at the end of the season," he said. "The only thing you can say is that in the last 15 years Spurs have finished behind Arsenal."

The Gunners boss added: "Tottenham are doing well and we are on a good run in the championship so it will be a good game.

"Every game is massive now until the end of the season, but it is exciting.

"What is terrible is to play a game of no importance. What is important is that we enjoy it and come out with a good performance."

Russian midfielder Andrey Arshavin continues to be linked with a move back to former club Zenit St Petersburg, who have had plenty to say about their former skipper.

Wenger, though, insisted the 30-year-old - who scored twice for the reserves in their 5-0 midweek win at Norwich - was not about to leave.

"At the moment no," said the Arsenal manager.

On the continued rumours coming from Russia, Wenger was not impressed.

"I know its not permitted, but it is the case. They go through agents. It is like that and I will not change it," he said.

As to whether there had been any direct contact between Zenit and his player, Wenger added: "I have no proof. I do not check the phone bills of Andrey Arshavin so I don't know."

PA

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