Arsene Wenger rejected the criticism of his eight seasons without a trophy and said today that his greatest achievement over 1,000 games in charge of Arsenal was keeping the club in the Champions League in the lean financial years when they funded the building of the Emirates Stadium.
The club’s chairman Sir Chips Keswick made a presentation to Wenger at the training ground, giving him a miniature cannon designed 125 years ago by the workers in the Woolwich Arsenal, the origins of the club in south-east London. In a short speech, Keswick said “long may you continue to lead us”, although there is no update on Wenger’s new contract.
Facing Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, his 1,000th game in charge, Wenger said that he expected to be in charge beyond the end of the season when he is currently out of contract. It is more than half those 1,000 games since Wenger last claimed a trophy, the 2005 FA Cup, but the Arsenal manager said that his record was not subjected to the right scrutiny.
Wenger said: “If winning a trophy is winning the League Cup and finish 12th in the league, I think the most important thing for the quality of the club, of the management of the club, is the consistency of the achievement. After the trophies come and go, but I believe you see the quality of the management in the consistency of their achievement.
“If you finish in first place one year and then 12th, I don't believe that. The real quality of management is linked with consistency. Of course we want to win trophies, but I think if you look well at the consistency that we have shown in the last 15 or 17 years, and you compare with all other clubs, that is the most difficult thing to achieve. In individual finals it's great players who win you the games, and we have great players, so I'm confident we can win trophies.”
Wenger said that he was grateful for the club’s support over more than 17 years in charge but added that it had been reciprocated. “What I have done is with full commitment and with full loyalty to this club. This club has given me a chance but I think as well at an important period of the lifespan of this club, I have shown loyalty and have turned many things down, and accepted to work with restricted potential, knowing that I had to stay at the top of the game.
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
1/11 Richard Wright
After impressing at Ipswich, Wright was signed in 2001 as the heir to David Seaman's No 1 shirt, but his time at Highbury was remembered for error after error, and he was eventually usurped by young Stuart Taylor
2/11 Oleg Luzhny
Known as "The Horse" for his galloping runs, but played like he was wearing blinkers. Joined from Dynamo Kyiv in 1999
3/11 Igors Stepanovs
Tried to marshal the Gunners against Manchester United at Old Trafford in disastrous consequences, the team conceding five before half-time and memorably losing 6-1. Latvian signed from Skonto Riga in 2000
4/11 Sebastien Squillaci
French international joined for £4m from Sevilla in 2010. Made 39 largely woeful appearances for the club, and left on a free last year
5/11 Andre Santos
The least said about Santos the better. Wenger said the "quality" left-back had "Champions League experience" when he was signed from Fenerbahce for £6.2m in 2011 but he had yet to play even in the full competition. Was he even talking about the same player?
6/11 Junichi Inamoto
The Japanese midfielder joined from Gamba Osaka in 2001, in a move that was portrayed as a cynical marketing ploy for the Gunners to tap into the Far East market. The doubters had a point, he failed to make a Premier League appearance for the club before leaving to join Fulham a year later
7/11 Amaury Bischoff
Wenger admitted he had taken "a gamble" on signing the injury-hit Portuguese midfielder in 2008. The gamble didn't pay off - he only played one Premier League match for the Gunners before leaving the following season
He may now be setting the world alight for Roma in Italy, but the Gervinho at Arsenal was a different beast - one that could not cross or shoot, and confused himself when he was running with the ball
9/11 Park Ju-Young
Park who? I hear you cry. Despite scoring on his debut, the South Korean striker only ever made seven appearances in three years at the club. He is now paying his trade on loan at Watford
10/11 Marouane Chamakh
The Moroccan target man joined from Bordeaux with fine Champions League pedigree. Unfortunately he did not ever get close to replicating this for the Gunners
11/11 Francis Jeffers
The "Fox in the Box" was not a wily signing for £8m. He scored eight goals during his time at Arsenal, meaning every goal he scored set the club back a cool £1m
“I would just say I did that with full commitment. We are all only human beings, that means I certainly made mistakes, but I still think the consistency of our achievement shows that we have not made too many.”
Tomas Rosicky could miss tomorrow’s game with an “ankle problem”. Ryo Miyaichi is out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. Wenger said that none of the top four teams could deny that they were in the race to win the title.
“You cannot say they [Chelsea] are favourites or not, but they are amongst the teams who are fighting to win the Premier League, nobody can deny that.
“If you look at the table, what is very interesting is you have Manchester City, you have Chelsea, you have Liverpool and you have Arsenal. That has not happened for years to fight for the Premier League. That makes it really interesting. None of these four teams can say they are not going for it, that would be stupid.”