Belfast Telegraph

Wenger: I can handle the flak

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not take criticism from major shareholder Alisher Usmanov personally, but has told everyone involved with the club they must get behind his team.

Uzbek oil magnate Usmanov - whose Red & White Holdings Group has just over a 30 per cent stake in the Gunners parent company - gave an interview to American broadcaster CNBC in which he questioned the direction of the club.

He suggested Wenger's mistakes were never properly evaluated, which was standing in the way of them challenging Europe's other leading sides.

Wenger, now the longest-serving manager in the top flight, has enough experience not to take anything to heart, with the 2-1 Barclays Premier League home defeat to Manchester United on Saturday having attracted plenty of negative headlines.

The Gunners boss, though, believes such public statements and suggestions of crisis talks with the board do little to benefit the team, who host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night looking to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League once again.

"When you are such a long time in football as I am, you don't understand any more what crisis means. I must get to the dictionary and look at it well again," said Wenger, who confirmed England midfielder Jack Wilshere will see a specialist to assess the seriousness of ankle ligament damage suffered in the defeat to United.

"During the 18 years I have been here I have shown that I can take criticism. Everybody has the right to have an opinion, having said that, we have values at this club," the Frenchman added.

"The first one is when we go through a difficult patch, we show solidarity. That is a very important one.

"The second one is that, when you have something to say to each other, we say it face to face. We don't need to go to the newspapers.

"I don't take (Usmanov's comments) personally at all. It is an opinion that I respect, but when you are from this club, you are from this club. You are in or out, you cannot be both.

"I am long enough in the game to know that when you play well, but lose the game, you get flooded with critics, however, if you play a very bad game, but you win it, everyone says how great you are.

"It is our job to take a distance with that and see what was right and what was wrong. The rest is part of the game."

Wenger insists Arsenal have what it takes to finish the season strongly again, having seen their title challenge fade with Chelsea 15 points clear of them already.

He said: "What is important is how close we are together inside the club and how much we can respond to people who question our quality.

"I personally feel that there is a very strong bond inside the team and the club, and that this team will have a very strong season.

"I believe in what I do and I especially believe in my players, and in their quality and spirit.

"I question myself every day and I hope you do that as well."

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey insists the squad are united in their desire to turn the campaign around.

The Wales international said: "We believe in ourselves, we have a great team spirit and we are not too concerned with what is being said about us. We know all about what we are capable of doing. It is just some fine-tuning."

Wenger expects Wilshere to be "out for a while", having been forced off against United when a sliding tackle from Paddy McNair turned his ankle.

"He has a big ankle sprain and I don't want to talk about it because I'm not a specialist medically," said Wenger.

"The first news is they have told us that he will be out for the next few games. (To find out) for how long, we will need to see a specialist."

Arsenal, though, will be able to call on France defender Laurent Koscielny, who has resumed full training after an Achilles problem.

Forward Olivier Giroud, however, is ineligible after being omitted from Arsenal's Champions League squad. He was originally expected to miss all of the group matches because of a broken leg.

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