2008-04-18

Wenger mad at the defensive men


Gunners' boss, Arsene Wenger, says that de defenders bad performance is the critical factor in Arsenal's lack of success in the Champions League and Premier League.

"It is the lowest week I have had here in all this time," Wenger admitted. "We have lost the 100 metres on a photo-finish. That's what happened. It's tough to swallow because you have still made a good race and you finish empty-handed. It hurts bad, really bad. Maybe for me more as I really believed that we could do it.

"We were leading against Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United, and at home against them. So we can score goals. What we could not stop is conceding goals in big games. Nine times out of 10 the guy who wins a big game is the guy who scores first, and we lost all these games after being in front. So I think we suffered more as a team defensively than offensively."

The french coach, who has set a deadline of the end of this month to settle negotiations with the midfielder Matthieu Flamini, said: "My first target is to keep the team together. If you ask me how many players I want to buy, it's not a question of numbers, it's a question of one or two quality footballers."

He ruled out signing the Valencia forward David Villa, who expressed a willingness to move to the Emirates Stadium this week. "No," he claims. "I feel up front I need to give time to [Nicklas] Bendtner and Theo Walcott because they have made big improvements. Walcott is now coming on and I have to give him an opportunity at some stage."

Furthermore, Wenger had words about Philippe Senderos: "He's in the squad. But I feel sometimes you have to give the time to refresh mentally. He is so intense, Philippe. He is genuine and dedicated and he's disappointed by his performance at Liverpool but only time can get you over that."

Wenger assured that defeat in the Champions League was worse than losing to Barcelona in the 2006 final. "Against Barcelona we played with 10 men for 70 minutes. The first time you play in a final it can happen that you lose. But to go out to Liverpool after the two games we played was very, very disappointing."

Almunia's injury could bring Lehmann back to the team

Manuel Almunia is the first goalkeeper at Arsenal, but now he is a major doubt for the home game with Reading. That could mean the experienced Lehmann might have a chance to return to the first team.

In fact, further complications to the Spaniard’s wrist complaint, which kept him out of the defeat at Manchester United last weekend, could open the door for Lehmann’s farewell match at the Emirates Stadium since his departure in the summer is almost a fore-gone conclusion after being benched for most of the season.

"Maybe Manuel Almunia will be available, I just don't know," Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger stated. "I will make a decision on Friday morning. He got injured in training on the Friday before Manchester United. It's important to say that we sent him for a scan and there was an inflammation so he could not take part of the game."