Belfast Telegraph

Bruce sticks up for Wenger

Steve Bruce has branded criticism of Arsene Wenger "ridiculous" as he attempts to pile more pressure on the under-fire Arsenal boss.

The Sunderland manager takes his side to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday knowing exactly how the Frenchman feels after having to deal with the fall-out from the Black Cats' own poor start to the new season.

Bruce said: "Listen, we are all open to criticism because of the job we are doing, but Arsene Wenger and what he has achieved, to criticise him is, for me, ridiculous."

He added: "He has had a poor start for the first time in 20 years, is it? Certainly, he has qualified for UEFA (Cup) or the Champions League in the last 14 or 15 and produced great teams.

"As I have said many times when we have played Arsenal, I think he has been to the detriment of the young British manager because clubs have looked at the job Arsene Wenger has done.

"Let's be fair, it was one of those when he walked in, (people said) 'Arsene who?'. But certainly, most clubs have then thought, 'Let's go and get the new Arsene Wenger', and there are not many of those around. He's a terrific manager.

"It gives us all hope, I have to say, if we have got the audacity to question Arsene Wenger. What he has achieved there, it's quite remarkable."

Sunday's game represents a clash between the sides currently sitting in 15th and 16th places in the Barclays Premier League table. There are mitigating factors, of course, with Wenger having lost key men Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri during the summer, although Bruce is convinced Wenger will succeed in his latest rebuilding mission.

He said: "He built one of the great teams we have seen here; (Dennis) Bergkamp and (Patrick) Vieira and (Emmanuel) Petit and Overmars and all of that lot were a great, great team. That changed the mentality of the Premier League. They were big, strong, powerful.

I remember my first game with Birmingham playing against them and thinking to myself, 'Oh my God, look at this lot, they are all 6ft 2in, 6ft 3in', and we had a team of midgets. Then of course, he has changed tack a little bit and built a new Arsenal team and a new Arsenal way. He's a great manager."

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