As Arsenal head towards the business end of the season, their manager Arsene Wenger has said that the Gunners should be optimistic about their chances.
The North Londoners will face Sunderland on Saturday at the Stadium of Light, with their aim being to keep pace with their city rivals Chelsea. Last weekend, Arsenal crushed Blackburn Rovers 7-1 at Emirates, while the Blues blew a three goal lead to settle for a draw with Manchester United. It means that Arsenal now trail fourth-placed Chelsea by just three points, a gap that could get erased tomorrow, if the Blues lose to Everton at Goodison Park and the Gunners win their match against Martin O’Neill’s men.
Arsenal will travel to Italy early next week in order to play AC Milan in their Champions League tie before once again heading to Sunderland for their FA Cup fifth round match that will be played next Saturday.
Wenger has had to deal with many injury problems this season, which is nothing new. But the situation is getting better now, with left-back Kieran Gibbs being the latest Arsenal player to be declared fit. Now that the injury cloud is clearing up, Wenger thinks that his side can get the job done in the upcoming crucial stage of the 2011/12 season.
“Overall the situation looks a lot more positive in a period that will decide our season and therefore it is good to have the players back. It is that important because in one week we play three games in three different competitions. In every single competition we are, of course, in a position where we want to win our games,” the Frenchman said.
“Sunderland are doing well, and we have rebuilt our confidence. It is important that we go in a positive mind there and that we come back with three points.”
The Arsenal boss has also confirmed that the club is not trying to get Thierry Henry’s loan deal extended from his parent club New York Red Bulls. It means that the legendary striker will not be able to participate in the highly-anticipated Arsenal/Spurs London derby later this month.
“There is clarification, it will be February 16, the day after Milan. I would have loved him to stay two more weeks, but he has to go back. He is captain of Red Bulls. Just to appear on the first day of the season would be unfair to them. We accepted at the start that we would release him on February 16, so we respect our word. Thierry as well thinks it would be too late,” Wenger said.
“He has a fantastic impact on the squad, was happy to be here and all the players were happy to have him around. In training, he looks better every week. He is now back to a fitness level comparable to all the other players. The movements of him in training, makes me think it is a shame he does not play for the [France] national team anymore.”
A Belgian tabloid recently quoted the Arsenal boss as saying that his target is to generate a “profit of between 15 and 20million pounds” each year. The statement didn’t please all the factions of the Arsenal supporters and so Wenger has moved to shed some more light on the subject.
“Do you think the target of the club is to lose money? It cannot last a long time, the target is to make profit. It looks to me normal for any company in the world, so I don’t know why it is surprising. We want to pay the debt we owe from the stadium we built, that’s around £15million. So it’s normal that at the start, we have to make at least £15million or we lose money,” the 62-year old coach said.
The general belief is that Arsenal’s obligation to pay off the debt arising from building their state-of-the-art stadium is the reason of their frugality in the transfer market, but apparently that’s not the case behind the club’s reluctance to splash the cash.
Wenger, who has a degree in economics from Strasbourg University, explained: “I accept one basic principle for every company that you can spend the money you make. It is just natural common sense and mathematical logic that what goes out has to equal what comes in. if that does not work then the company loses money.”
On a separate subject, the Arsenal boss has made it clear that Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin will not be allowed to leave before the end of the season. Cash-rich Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala are rumoured to be interested in taking Arshavin back to Russia, where the winter transfer window is still open.
But Wenger has declared: “I expect him to be here after February 24 and that is clear.”