Arsene Wenger may have just marked his 19th year in charge of Arsenal, but he was in no mood for celebrating during a fiery press conference ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday. The Frenchman faced strong criticism after a 3-2 home defeat to Olympiakos on Tuesday that left Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread. He came under particular fire for his decision to start David Ospina in goal ahead of the club’s only new arrival in this summer’s transfer window, Petr Cech. But Wenger was in no mood to elaborate further on the subject on Friday.
“I do not want to come back on that, all has been said in the press conference," he said. "I don’t change a word of what I said. Looking at Ospina and Petr Cech, I think I have two world-class goalkeepers and it’s the easiest choice I have to make, because I can pick either of the two and am very comfortable. It’s the most difficult as well, because I have to leave one out. I make the decision I think is right on the day."
Repeated questioning produced an even sterner response.
“Have you another question? We have two days training, do not always come back with that same story,” he added. “You can put a goalkeeper you want in goal, he can make a mistake and you have to accept that. If you have watched well the game and come to the conclusion that we lost the game because of Opsina I question your knowledge in football.”
Those weren’t even the spikiest remarks from Wenger, usually one of the Premier League’s more obliging managers in front of the press. The Arsenal boss reacted with even greater anger when it was put to him that his stance backed up recent comments from his great rival Jose Mourinho that he wasn’t accountable for his actions and was the only Premier League manager not under pressure.
“I’m accountable on the results of my team and the way we play football,” he said. “Stop that story or we stop the press conference.”
It all seems a long time ago now that Arsenal followed up a victory over rivals Tottenham in the Capital One Cup by overcoming early pressure to impressively win 5-2 at Leicester City last weekend. That result took them up to fourth place in the Premier League, although it still leaves them three points behind their next opponents.
Manchester United went top of the table last Saturday for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. A 3-0 victory over Sunderland was their third successive triumph in the Premier League, and they followed it up with a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg to get their Champions League campaign back on track.
It is an impressive turnaround after what was a slow start to the season. But Louis van Gaal’s side are now entering a crucial month of their campaign, with trips to Everton and Crystal Palace also upcoming as well the visit of Manchester City in three weeks’ time. And Van Gaal is also expecting a stern challenge from Arsenal.
“We are happy but I think Arsenal can come back from a defeat,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “They have shown that a lot of times. Arsenal are technically and tactically the best team in the league. Nevertheless, they haven't won so much, so you have to look for that improvement with that team.”
United will have Michael Carrick available again after injury, but are likely to be without Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera, as well as long-term casualty Luke Shaw. For Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny will be absent with a hamstring injury, while Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are also out.
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra