Wenger hits back at Arsenal ‘crisis’ claim
Arsene Wenger has suggested Manchester United defender Patrice Evra showed a lack of respect by branding Arsenal nothing more than a ‘training centre’ ahead of Monday night's Premier League showdown at Old Trafford.
The Gunners leapfrogged United to the top of the table last weekend with victory over Fulham as the Red Devils had their match at Blackpool postponed.
Evra turned up the heat ahead of the showdown during an interview with French television, in which he claimed Arsenal offer style but little substance and declaring the club was in ‘crisis’ for not having won a trophy since 2005.
Wenger, however, feels a war of words serves no purpose.
“He gave you some good stuff to make it all hot before the game,” the Arsenal manager said.
“We are guided by the way we want to play football and not by the statements of anybody who plays against us.
“Personally, I believe if you are a big player you always respect your opponent and that is what we try to do.”
Asked if Evra had been disrespectful, the Gunners manager said: “I leave that judgement to you. We do not want to go into any unneeded talking before a game like that.”
The showdowns between United and Arsenal may not now be as feisty as they were in the days of 'Pizzagate' when the duo battled for Premier League supremacy, but it is certainly set to be a decent atmosphere at Old Trafford on Monday night.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has called on home supporters not to subject Wenger to a torrid of sick abuse as has happened in previous visits.
Last season, Wenger received an apology from referees chief Keith Hackett after he was dismissed from the dugout for kicking a water bottle and unsure of where to go, had to climb up into the stand with fans before eventually being ushered along the touchline to the tunnel.
“I said you want to respect everybody and to be respected as well. That's why whenever Manchester United comes to Arsenal we always invite our fans to respect him and respect our players. I cannot do more than that,” said Wenger.
“You know what happened over the years. I believe in individual responsibility of what you do in life. I cannot master 70,000 or 80,000 people. I try to do my job that is all.”
On his now seemingly cordial relationship with once bitter rival Ferguson, Wenger observed: “It has changed a little bit by the length of the surviving of both managers in their team and there is a respect and understanding of the difficulty of this job. That's maybe what you call 'mellowing'.
“What is important is how well both teams will play and all the ingredients are there for an exciting game, that's what we want to produce.”
Wenger will leave a decision on the fitness of captain Cesc Fabregas, battling to recover from a hamstring problem, until the last moment.
“We will not take an unreasonable gamble, that is for sure, even if it is a big game,” he said.
“We have to assess if it is a risk for him to play, is he ready to play in a very intense game, then I will make a decision, but overall I am more focused on the team performance than on any individual performance. You know you only win any big game if the whole team competes well.”