Arsene Wenger has once again come out in defence of his faltering Arsenal side, while at the same time jokingly threatening to add Barcelona star Lionel Messi to his ranks.
The Frenchman answered critics who claimed this is his worst ever team, after the misery of the Gunners’ worst ever start to a Premier League season was added to by their humilating exit from the Capital One Cup at the hands of League Two Bradford City.
The 62-year-old insisted he actually won more trophies with a group of players who were not as focused as his current crop at the Emirates.
Wenger told reporters at his Friday press conference: “I have had groups who had fantastic results who were less serious than these players, believe me. We won trophies with players who were less focused than this team.
“Of course these players are hurting. You think they don’t care and they go home [after Bradford] and think they had a fantastic game? They do care.
“We have not kicked on, that’s true. But we have rebuilt a team this year and we’ll see where we finish.”
Wenger urged a sense of perspective and pointed to the club’s achievement of consistently qualifying for Champions League football.
“At the moment, we have qualified for the Champions League knock-out stages for 13 years on the trot. When I listen to you [the media], it must be a mistake there – ‘Why is this team in this spot?’ It sounds like we should be in the Championship.
“At the moment, you have to take a little bit of distance before making a definite judgement on what we are capable of doing.
“No other team has done that in the Champions League. At the moment we are not happy with what we have produced. But we will turn it around before the end of the season.”
Wenger also mounted a spirited defence of his recent additions to the Arsenal squad. Despite the almost unanimous consent that the likes of Marouane Chamakh, Gervinho and Sebastien Squillaci are not up to the Gunners’ usual standard, Wenger refused to accept the criticism.
“Who are the big buys?” questioned Wenger. “How much? He [Gervinho] was £8 million. Gervinho is a good player, yes. But I don’t want to go into individual assessments.
“Chamakh was a big buy? He was free. Squillaci, nearly free.
“You cannot say that we have a squad of no quality. They are international players.”
Arsenal have the fourth highest wage bill in the Premier League but Wenger insists the club simply operate in a different league from those above them.
He continued: “First of all, you don’t know their wages. Secondly, you accuse us of not paying the wages the players want and on the other hand you accuse [us] of giving them the money they want.
“If you are in that situation, then it’s because we are in the Champions League and we can produce the money.
“And secondly we are under pressure from Man City, Man United and Chelsea [who] pay three times more the highest wages than us to pay the players these wages.
“We live in a competitive world. If they want to sign here, they can say, ‘I can get three times more there’.”
Having fielded criticism of his team and signings, the beleaguered Frenchman ended his press conference on a light note, suggesting that Arsenal fans could look forward to a big January acquistion.
He added: “What do you call big [in terms of a signing]?
“We will buy Lionel Messi in January and surprise you!”