Arshavin 'disrespected' Arsenal by flirting with Barcelona, says Wenger

Gunners manager is at a loss to explain his striker's comments as Russian hopes to extend his contract in north London
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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger admits he has been left disappointed by comments from Andrei Arshavin revealing the Russian's admiration for Barcelona – and maintains all of his players should respect their own club.

The 28-year-old – signed from Zenit St Petersburg during January last year – is currently battling to be fit due to a calf problem, and may not make the trip to Blackburn on Monday night.

Earlier this week, though, the Russian playmaker talked up Barcelona, who knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League, and claimed playing for the Spanish giants at some stage "would be the peak of my career".

It is not the first time such quotes attributed to Arshavin have hit the headlines, the Russian having questioned Arsenal's direction more than once during a season of frustration.

While Wenger continues to take such stories with a pinch of salt, given their source from overseas, the Arsenal manager firmly believes his team must commit 100 per cent to the Gunners' cause.

"Yes, I am very disappointed because he shows a completely different attitude," said Wenger. "He wants to extend his contract with us and stay with us, so the noise coming out of Russia is very difficult to explain. He looks to be very happy here, so you should ask him where it comes from."

Wenger declared: "We do not, of course, accept that. When you are at Arsenal, you are at Arsenal. When you are somewhere else, you are somewhere else. I believe that your pride means first that you defend your club.

"Everybody has the freedom to speak, but you want to make sure first of all that you respect your club."

Wenger, though, reflected: "I just put one question mark behind the things that come back translated. Usually you have direct access to him, you can ask him where that comes from. I don't forbid you to talk to him, but I take with a bit of distance what comes back translated sometimes with the help of some agents who want to move the players."

Wenger concedes however he will need to strengthen his squad after another campaign, blighted by injury to key men, failed to deliver a trophy.

Marouane Chamakh's arrival is set to be officially confirmed once the Morocco striker's contract with Bordeaux expires in the summer.

William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikaël Silvestre will all see their deals finish at the end of the season, so Wenger may well look to bolster his defence, with the Fulham centre-back Brede Hangeland a potential target.

"I will try to do what I want to do as quickly as possible, but it does not only depend on me," he said. "Certainly, we will announce one player before the World Cup, but after that we will see."

Wenger, however, maintains his playing staff does not need major surgery, saying: "I believe in the squad I have and if I can make an addition to the squad – two or three maximum – then we will do it." Meanwhile The Old Firm have received an apology from the Boston Globe newspaper over an article which suggested supporters were to blame for the 1971 Ibrox Disaster. The paper ran an opinion piece yesterday in which fears were expressed over the proposed staging of an Old Firm match in the US city this summer. The article was critical of the behaviour of Rangers fans during a number of European away matches, including the 2008 Uefa Cup final in Manchester.

But it was the claim supporter behaviour played a part in the tragic deaths of 66 people after a derby 39 years ago that has angered the Govan club. The author of the piece issued a statement retracting the claim and apologising to both Rangers and Celtic.

It read: "In reference to the article entitled "Celtic-Rangers game should be held at Gillette, not Fenway" of April 28, I wish to convey my most sincere apologies for any distress caused to fans of Glasgow Rangers or Glasgow Celtic, or others, many of whom have written to comment.

"In reference to the Ibrox disaster of 1971, it is my belief that no one was responsible for this awful tragedy. It was, and remains, a terrible tragedy and its victims will be in my thoughts and prayers henceforth.

"It was my intention through this article to convey to the people of Boston the passions of the respective fans, and for balanced reporting purposes, I had intended taking comments from Rangers fans in a subsequent article.

"I remain hopeful that the Old Firm will play in the Boston area this summer so the citizens of Boston can experience the atmosphere which is unique to this fixture."