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Arsene Wenger stands firm and shrugs off Gary Neville's 'arrogant' criticism over Arsenal defensive frailties

By Tom Peck

Published 28/08/2015

Defiant: Arsene Wenger defended his tactical approach
Defiant: Arsene Wenger defended his tactical approach

Three days after being described as arrogant by Gary Neville, Arsene Wenger refused to accept criticism that his Arsenal side are not defensive-minded enough.

After the Gunners' 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday, the Frenchman was on the end of a scathing critique from Sky Sports pundit and England coach Neville, for what he perceived as Wenger's failure to bring in a powerful defensive midfielder and inability to change tactics when up against the Premier League's top sides.

Neville said: "To think that you are not going to adapt your team, to make changes to impact on the other teams that you're playing against and their strengths - it is either naive or arrogance."

In response, Wenger said: "I don't know what that has to do with arrogance. I just try to do my job and I leave it to other people to assess my work.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I could prove to you it's not necessarily right but let's not go into that debate.

"In football you have to accept that anybody can be right. But since January, we have conceded fewer goals than anybody else. Our mindset is right.

"The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, that it is documented and worked out before. Especially when it is football specialists. I accept you can be right and I can be wrong. But what you do not want is just an opinion that comes out, just because you feel like that.

"I am not against opinion, people can say they don't think Arsenal are good enough, I accept that. But it is dangerous to say, 'He will never be a player,' especially when the comment has come from people in football.

"What is a concern is that it puts pressure on players. I believe that we, who are in a football job, people who have been in the game, I love that they go on television, but I would like them to help people to love football even more."

On football commentators in general, Wenger added: "When I watch a game sometimes, the guy doesn't talk about the game. He tells you about his life and what he thinks about football.

"I like to know that (Morgan) Schneiderlin passes to (Michael) Carrick. But sometimes I watch games and at the end I don't know the players who have played, because the guys don't comment on the game. The first mission is to educate people.

"The guy should explain things so those who haven't played at the top level can understand and to get people to really love the game.

"For me, that is the first mission. To come out and say, 'Oh yes, this game is great'. Some do it very well but the other way I don't like so much."

The most common criticism of Arsenal is that they are simply not defensive-minded enough, a view Wenger does not accept.

The Gunners face Newcastle tomorrow at St James' Park, their fourth match in a Premier League season that has so far returned just six home wins from 30 matches.

"Teams defend better (at the start of the season) and they are all quick on the break," Wenger said. "They are fresh and mentally not tired, so they don't give up.

"The only team that looks to score for fun at the moment is Man City but the others? I don't know. Maybe the teams are well organised and quick in transition."

But he has noticed a difference in the way opposition teams approach matches at the Emirates.

"They are playing deeper. Much deeper. That is why the first goal is important in these kinds of game," said Wenger.

Belfast Telegraph

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