Arsene Wenger refuses to take criticism seriously – especially from Paul Merson ahead of Arsenal vs Swansea

Ex-player Paul Merson called the Frenchman 'tactically clueless' after Arsenal thew away a three-goal lead against Anderlecht in the Champions League last week

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The Independent Football

As criticism goes, it was fairly brutal. Having surrendered a three-goal lead to Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday night, the disapproval from the home fans at the Emirates was damning enough but that was merely an appetiser as the critics weighed in to condemn Arsène Wenger and his team.

Among them was former Gunner, Paul Merson, who compared them to an under-12 team and claimed they were tactically clueless. But while Merson went off on a rant live on Sky Sports, you had to hand it to Wenger who, in response, managed to dismiss Merson in just 11 words: “I managed him. I tried. I’m not interested in Paul Merson.”

Nonetheless, while he attempted to claim he was immune to criticism, Wenger was animated enough to suggest he was at least aware of it. “Honestly, if I really cared, do you think I would have survived for 18 years? Honestly, the answer is there. These debates that I hear are a joke. People who have managed altogether zero games teach everybody how you should behave. It’s a farce. I cannot even be upset about it.”

But clearly he is. “It does not matter to me what people say. What surprises me is that people criticise without any proven fact, just because they like to criticise.

“I’m animated because of the fact we didn’t win the game against  Anderlecht. What I care about is whether my players are punished or criticised in a justified way. When you see the first goal we conceded against Anderlecht, it was clearly offside. Nobody speaks about that, not one person. Why? Because people just want to slaughter us.

“Criticism is far more interesting than praise. If I say to you, you are great, that isn’t interesting. If I say you are absolutely stupid, that is.”

Wenger even refutes the claim he had a go at his players after they surrendered their three-goal lead. “No, I didn’t criticise them. I rectified their mistakes. It’s not exactly the same. I didn’t tell them: ‘You’re an absolute idiot.’ I asked them: ‘What should you have done there?’ That’s the difference.”

Naturally, Wenger sends his side out against Swansea looking for improvement. “The only pressure on them is to play well and win the game. My job is to give people a job and to trust them to do it.”

Given all his experience you can imagine he has some useful words of advice for Swansea’s young manager Gary Monk. “Resist pressure and criticism and make your ideas be dominant. You have to believe in what you do, that is all,” he said.