Arsene Wenger upbeat ahead of crucial period for Arsenal

 

Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal should be positive as they enter the defining period of their season.

The Gunners head to Sunderland tomorrow looking to keep up with fourth-placed Chelsea, the gap now down to just three points following last weekend's results which saw Wenger's men beat Blackburn 7-1 while the Blues were held to a 3-3 draw by Manchester United.

Next week, Arsenal travel to AC Milan for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie before returning to the Stadium of Light in the FA Cup fifth round on February 18.

With England defender Kieran Gibbs the latest player to return to a squad which has been depleted by injury, Wenger believes the Gunners can come through a make-or-break spell.

"Overall the situation looks a lot more positive in a period that will decide our season and therefore it is good to have the players back," the Arsenal manager said.

"It is that important because in one week we play three games in three different competitions.

"In every single competition we are, of course, in a position where we want to win our games."

Wenger added: "Sunderland are doing well, and we have rebuilt our confidence.

"It is important that we go in a positive mind there and that we come back with three points."

Wenger confirmed Thierry Henry would be returning to New York Red Bulls as planned at the end of his loan spell, meaning the former Gunners skipper will not be around for the visit of arch-rivals Tottenham.

"There is clarification, it will be February 16, the day after Milan," Wenger said.

"I would have loved him to stay two more weeks, but he has to go back.

"He is captain of Red Bulls. Just to appear on the first day of the season would be unfair to them. We accepted at the start that we would release him on February 16, so we respect our word. Thierry as well thinks it would be too late.

"He has a fantastic impact on the squad, was happy to be here and all the players were happy to have him around.

"In training, he looks better every week. He is now back to a fitness level comparable to all the other players.

"The movements of him in training, makes me think it is a shame he does not play for the [France] national team anymore."

Wenger did not make any major moves in what was a relatively static January transfer window.

The Arsenal manager moved to clarify his recent comments in an interview with a Belgian newspaper over the importance of securing a "profit of between 15 and 20million pounds" every season, and that the purpose of a coach is "to always buy at a price he sees fit".

Wenger said: "Do you think the target of the club is to lose money? It cannot last a long time, the target is to make profit.

"It looks to me normal for any company in the world, so I don't know why it is surprising.

"We want to pay the debt we owe from the stadium we built, that's around £15 million. So it's normal that at the start, we have to make at least £15 million or we lose money."

Wenger denied the need to service the debt on the move to Emirates Stadium tied his hands in the transfer market.

"I accept one basic principle for every company that you can spend the money you make," he said.

"It is just natural common sense and mathematical logic that what goes out has to equal what comes in. if that does not work then the company loses money."

Wenger, meanwhile, insisted there would be no chance of Andrey Arshavin leaving for Russia, where the window remains open until the end of the month and reports have emerged of interest from Anzhi Makhachkala and former club Zenit St Petersburg.

The Arsenal manager said: "I expect him to be here after February 24 and that is clear."

PA

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