Terry saga not a distraction says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains the John Terry saga will have no bearing on Sunday's clash with Barclays Premier League title rivals Chelsea - and believes the role of a captain is overplayed within the English game.

Terry's position as skipper of the national team has been the subject of intense scrutiny since a gagging order which prevented details being reported of an alleged affair with the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, a current England team-mate, was lifted.

Debate has raged as to what impact the continuing frenzy will have on both Chelsea's campaign and the England dressing room ahead of the World Cup.

England manager Fabio Capello is set to meet Terry later today, but Wenger insists all off-field issues will have little impact when the two London heavyweights clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

"I don't want to go into that stuff about role models that you hear everywhere. It is quite a bit tiring," said the Arsenal manager, whose team will be looking to bounce back from last weekend's 3-1 home demolition by Manchester United.

"We do not have to interfere with Chelsea's problems.

"I believe Chelsea will play at their best, we expect that, and that is why we just want to focus on our own performance.

"We have seen last Sunday when we do not play at our best we do not win the game and that is why the key is more on our side."

Wenger added: "It [captaincy] is over played, without a doubt.

"Maybe it has historical roots in battles, fighting. Traditionally in the history of England the captain certainly had a big role and a big importance.

"I like that, but team sport is linked with recent history, the 20th Century. Before that, it was all fighting, and so maybe it is linked with historical roots.

"In some other sports like rugby the captain has a bit more freedom and importance than in football.

"It is always an instant decision in a very quick time and the captain has no time to interfere with the individual decisions of the players on the pitch."

Wenger took direct action within his squad last season when he removed the captain's armband from William Gallas, replacing him with Cesc Fabregas, after the French defender questioned the spirit of the young Arsenal team.

In May, striker Nicklas Bendtner issued a public apology after he was photographed leaving a nightclub with his belt undone and jeans pulled down before being helped into a waiting car in the early hours after Arsenal had just been knocked out of the Champions League semi-finals.

Wenger has some empathy with the difficulties facing modern-day professionals.

"I believe more than footballers, human beings cross the line, and many of us do," he said.

"Who has not done that in life? We have all made mistakes."

French coach Wenger, 60, has been in England for more than a decade, and understands the media culture.

"It never surprises me because the headlines are quite predicable," he said.

"It must provoke an interest for people because if a newspaper writes, it is because people read it and there must be a demand for it.

"But I am interested in football more, what is happening on the pitch, a good pass, good vision, a good team spirit.

"If people like to read it, why not? But I am not a big fan of that."

Arsenal could blow the title race wide open with a second successive victory at Stamford Bridge, which would move them to within three points of Chelsea.

However, by the same token, suffer defeat and the young Gunners' championship ambitions will look to be all but over once again.

Wenger, though, remains calm.

"I believe we should be more relaxed at this time because at the start of the season nobody expected us in the top four or in the title race," he said.

"Now, instead of being intimidated, I believe we have to really have a go because we are entitled to have it.

"The biggest regret I have from Sunday against Manchester United is that we gave them too much freedom and allowed them to play too much in a game where we should have been dictating.

"My team wanted it so much that sometimes you can be a little bit restricted and our target is to get that freedom to play against Chelsea."

Wenger concluded: "I am convinced that we are capable to win everywhere in the world, but of course we need to turn up with a good performance."

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