London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal’s turbulent January hasn’t affected his desire to remain in charge of the troubled Premier League club beyond this season.
Wenger’s side head into Saturday’s clash with Crystal Palace in crisis with their star forward Alexis Sanchez preparing to join Manchester United.
Since beating Palace on December 28, Arsenal have taken just two points from their three league games to leave them trailing eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the fight to qualify for the Champions League.
Adding insult to injury, the Gunners suffered an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at Championship side Nottingham Forest earlier this month.
Wenger’s problems have once again thrust his future into the spotlight, with fans once again calling for the Frenchman to resign after 14 years without a league title.
But the 68-year-old has vowed to revive Arsenal’s fortunes and, asked this week if this could be his final season, Wenger said: “No, that’s not the way I respond.
“I agree completely that 2018 until now has not been very positive but I am long enough in the job to know that what is important is how we respond to it and to focus on the performance.
“My personal situation is a bit secondary to all of that, what is important is how the team responds and what we make of 2018.
“We have many challenges, it is difficult at the moment, but as well very exciting because we have many challenges in front of us and we can come back in the Champions League.”
– Vilification –
By the time Arsenal face Palace, Sanchez could finally have got his wish to leave, with reports claiming the Chilean is on the verge of a £30 million ($41 million, 34 million euros) move to United that would make him the league’s highest paid player.
Wenger hopes the closing of the transfer window on January 31 will provide Arsenal with clarity and a renewed focus.
“We of course play the semi-final (of the League Cup) next week and after we have the Europa League as well, which is another target, so we have to very quickly get over this transfer period because for us especially this period has been more disturbing than ever,” Wenger said.
“Why? Because we have big players that are at the end of their contract and that is the first time that it happens, that we have such influential players close to the end of their contracts and it has been more destabilising than ever.
“I have no stress measurement at all. The experience I have helps me to focus on what is important at the right moment.”
Despite Arsenal’s woes, Palace boss Roy Hodgson believes the vilification of Wenger is unjustified.
Hodgson ranks Wenger alongside former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson as one of the greatest bosses in English football history.
“I think there are managers like Arsene who deserve the utmost respect because of what he’s done in the game of football, not least here in England,” Hodgson said.
“He’s a record-breaker in almost every category and basically the only person in my era who could really hold his hand up and say ‘this guy and I are in the same category’ is Alex Ferguson.
“He’s been criticised many times in the past but he could lose the next 50 games he ever plays and it certainly wouldn’t change one bit my respect for him as a manager or a person.”
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