Award-winning Wenger demands more of the same

Arsène Wenger is almost as shocked as the rest of us after picking up award for a very mixed February

Arsène Wenger may be a critic of the fickle, capricious nature of modern society, but he was pleased and surprised to be Barclays Manager of the Month yesterday, despite a February that could be best described as mixed.

The murmurs of discontent which have intruded all season at Arsenal were impossible to ignore just two weeks ago. Within four days Arsenal were effectively knocked out of the Champions League by Milan, before being unambiguously expelled from the FA Cup by Sunderland. With the trophy drought guaranteed to last another season, the discord over the club's direction was louder than ever.

But everything changed last Sunday, as Arsenal overthrew a 2-0 deficit to win an astonishing north London derby 5-2. And, yesterday morning, Wenger was taken aback to find himself anointed February's finest. "It was a complete shock to me," Wenger revealed with a smile. "I could not understand that at all. If you had read the newspapers in the last two weeks, you must say there is a mistake."

So surprised was Wenger, that after weeks of mocking and mutiny he should be presented with a prize, he joked that he was not the intended recipient: "I thought they were speaking to somebody else behind me."

That all said, viewing the Premier League alone, it was a good month for Arsenal. After a goalless draw at Bolton, they won three: routing Blackburn Rovers 7-1, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Sunderland, and overturning Spurs 5-2.

Wenger knows that reproducing the emotional intensity of last Sunday will not be easy. After a difficult start, Arsenal produced their best performance for at least a year to beat their local rivals. The players, he said, should "try to put themselves in the same frame of mind again and prepare in the same way, knowing that every game is different".

Arsenal are still in fourth place, and although their opponents this lunchtime, Liverpool, won the Carling Cup last Sunday, Wenger would not happily exchange places with them. Asked whether the trophy would make a meaningful difference, Wenger doubted it. "I don't think so," he said. "I think their main target is to be in the Champions League. It can help boost their confidence a little bit, but they know as well that they are going for something different."

Liverpool are seven points behind Arsenal, though with a game in hand, in part due to faltering home form. Wenger believes that defeat today would end their hopes of a top-four finish, but was surprised that a "good side" had won only four home league games and drawn eight. "It's difficult to explain," he said, "because they always have dominance, look always a threat, and have good strikers."

With a nearly insurmountable task against Milan on Tuesday, Wenger knows that a win today is required to generate enough momentum: "For us it's important to confirm the game we played against Tottenham at Liverpool and then we can focus completely on the Champions League and have a real go."

Wenger's good mood yesterday tempered annoyance at the midweek international games. Although Thomas Vermaelen, like Robin van Persie, passed a fitness test yesterday and should play today, Wenger said he was "upset" with the "disrespectful" Belgian football association for risking Vermaelen's fitness at all in midweek. "We sent them an email, and we spoke with their doctor," Wenger said. "They forced him to report in Brussels. Once he was in Brussels they forced him to travel."

The complaint is not with international football as such, but the relatively meaningless February friendlies. "Look, if Belgium had played a qualifier I would say 'OK, what can you do? That's for the country'," Wenger said. "But they played a friendly game. To go where? They do not even go to the Euros. So it's very difficult to understand. I cannot understand that obsession, that insistence, knowing that we play our lives on Saturday and Tuesday."

Wenger said the Belgian association had "forced" Vermaelen to play, while accepting the player was anxious to keep his place. "He was pushed into that situation where he had to play," Wenger said. "He plays as well a little bit in his mind for his position, in the Belgian central defence."

Abou Diaby is available for selection, but is unlikely to start.

Curse at an end?

* Winning manager of the month used to be seen as bad luck but every winner this season has gone on to win their following game.

Aug A Ferguson (MU) bt Bolton 5-0

Sept H Redknapp (Spurs) bt Arsenal 2-1

Oct R Mancini (MC) bt Villarreal 3-0

Nov Redknapp (Spurs) bt Bolton 3-0

Dec M O'Neill (Sund) bt Man City 1-0

Jan B Rodgers (Swa) bt WBA 2-1

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices