Andre Villas-Boas today hit back at Wojciech Szczesny’s claim that Tottenham did not “have the quality” to finish in the top four by claiming that the Arsenal goalkeeper was just passing through the club and was not a genuine fan.
In an interview with the Arsenal website yesterday, Szczesny said: "If we win our next two games it will be enough because either Chelsea or Spurs will drop points because they play each other [tomorrow]. Chelsea have Tottenham and Everton left and they won't be easy games. And Tottenham do not have enough quality, so there you go ..."
The interview was later removed from the Arsenal Player part of the club’s website. Asked to respond to Szczesny’s comments Villas-Boas said: “I think it would be a little more tolerable if it had come from a genuine Arsenal fan. But it is coming from an Arsenal player, an Arsenal player who is probably only passing by to another club, or he’s not going to stay there for life. In the end, does he mean exactly those words from the heart? He doesn’t for sure.
“He’s entitled to say what he wants. It would be a little bit more realistic from a famous Arsenal ‘fan’ to come forward with those words. From an Arsenal player, I don’t think it has that kind of effect on us. I wouldn’t say an Arsenal fan that has just arrived in that club in the last couple of years is entitled to have so much hatred towards Tottenham, like he seems to have.”
Szczesny, 23, has been at Arsenal since 2006 when he was signed from Legia Warsaw. Villas-Boas appeared to be referring to the relatively short amount of time the goalkeeper had been in the first team, rather than the length of time he had been at the club.
Tomorrow Villas-Boas returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since he was dismissed in March last year, before the team went on to win the Champions League two months later. Villas-Boas said he did not know what kind of reception he would receive from the fans. “Whatever reception [from the Chelsea fans] I have it comes from their hearts so I respect that is absolutely fine,” he said.
“I have told you that in the situation we were in [with Chelsea in March] it dictates that a manager loses his job. It is understandable, it has happened in various clubs for the same reasons and with the same effect which is immediate success after. So it is nothing new in football. It is something that unfortunately works. In moments of maximum difficulty you either believe in what you are doing or don’t believe and at that time the club had to make a decision that proved successful for them.”
On the appointment of Rafa Benitez, he said: “Rafa was given something he accepted as an interim manager. A difficult situation to be in. I think in the end he has proved the minimum objective of Chelsea being within their grasp, particularly with this next fixture so I would say it was successful. In the end he went past a very difficult period bearing in mind the circumstances he found there. It’s not for me to judge what is considered success.
“Yeah, difficult, on a personal note I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him. He made it public, his frustration, which probably gave him an edge to work a little more comfortable because people understood their behaviour was threatening the team’s balance.
“I think at this time any manager who has to go past those frustrations from the fans is difficult, the fans are what represents passion in football and they are entitled to their opinion and dissatisfaction. And they made it public when he was there. Definitely I have great respect for difficulties he went through.”