English Premiership

Upbeat Wenger defends reign

2012-12-14 18:54
Arsene Wenger (AFP Photo)

London - In the face of mounting criticism, Arsene Wenger insists his 16 years managing Arsenal gives him the knowhow to turn around the team's fortunes rather than being a hindrance.

A humbling League Cup loss to fourth-tier club Bradford on Tuesday added to the pressure on Wenger, whose side has not won a trophy since 2005 and is seventh in the English Premier League.

"I can understand that people criticize when the results are not as expected," Wenger said on Friday. "It looks like it has become the modern way to think. You say that 16 years (in charge) can be a handicap, but it can also be an advantage because you have experience, you love the club.

"If I sit here, it is because I have really shown how much I love this club. We have gone through difficult periods before and you know how to turn it around."

Going into Monday's match against relegation-threatened Reading, the Gunners are already 15 points behind leader Manchester United, although they are through to the Champions League knockout phase and enter the FA Cup in the third round against Swansea next month.

Wenger delivered three Premier League titles and four FA Cups before the trophy drought started and stressed that "experience is vital."

As is harmony within the camp, with Wenger denying claims of a rift between him and his assistant Steve Bould.

"We are a united staff team ... we have a strong squad," Wenger said. "It is up to them to show I am right."

Manchester City, despite sitting second in the standings, also has a point to prove after United ended the champions' unbeaten start to the Premier League last weekend.

City heads to Newcastle on Saturday six points behind United but with manager Roberto Mancini remaining bullish.

"We showed that we were better than Manchester United," Mancini said. "But they have more experience than us and it is not a problem to them when they fall behind.

"We need to work hard but we can recover this position. By February everything could have changed."

Queens Park Rangers will also be hoping that's the case as it currently sits bottom without a win after 16 matches.

Harry Redknapp's side hosts Fulham on Saturday two points adrift of Reading and eight points behind Wigan, Aston Villa and Southampton.

"Harry is capable of coming up with a few very good results, and then for them, hopefully keep them up," Fulham manager Martin Jol said.

In the relegation struggle, Wigan is at Norwich and Aston Villa is at Liverpool on Saturday.

Southampton has the weekend off as it was due to face Chelsea, which is in Japan at the Club World Cup.

Chelsea is third in the standings, with a three-point advantage over Everton, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion in the tight chase for the Champions League spots.

Everton scored two stoppage time goals last weekend to beat Tottenham 2-1 and move ahead of the London club.

And manager David Moyes is looking to maintain Everton's position of strength, with one eye already on the January transfer window as he prepares for Saturday's trip to Stoke.

"We wouldn't be letting anyone go, but we would like to add to it if we can," Moyes said. "But we can only do that if the players were available and it was the right deal for us."

United States goalkeeper Tim Howard is set to make his 200th consecutive league appearance for Everton on Saturday, a run stretching back to September 2007.

"He is fit, he is good, his work-rate is excellent and we are really pleased to have him," Moyes said. "When you leave Manchester United to come here, a lot can depend on how you react.

"And he tried to rebuild himself and show how good a goalkeeper he was and I think he has proved that."

In Sunday's matches, Tottenham hosts Swansea, and West Brom takes on West Ham.

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