Backpage Roundup: Walcott’s Bench Role Not a Punishment, Sagna Wants Maximum Wins, Gunners Lacking Confidence, Wenger Criticises Santos, Holtby Not Arsenal-Bound and More

Walcott’s Demotion to Bench Role Is Not About His Contract – Wenger

Arsene Wenger has once again denied media accusations that he is keeping Theo Walcott out of Arsenal’s starting line-up due to his contractual disputes with the club.

Walcott, 23, was a regular for the Gunners until last season but has started just one league game so far this season. His frequent demotion to the bench has led to claims that he might be getting punished for not agreeing a new deal with the club but Wenger says that’s not the case at all.

I will make a decision on when I know how fit he feels, this is a digestive problem. He has been sick and did not train, so we will see how he is,” the Arsenal boss told the press earlier today.

He further added: “It is nothing linked to his contract at all, it’s because I have played other players, simple as that. We started the season well, he was injured too. He played 40 minutes on Saturday, you can’t say he’s not played.”

 

Sagna Wants ‘To Win Maximum Amount of Games’

Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna has said that his team should try and win all three of their remaining Champions League group fixtures in order to progress to the next round as group winners.

The Group B is currently being led by the Gunners’ Tuesday night opponents Schalke, who inflicted a comprehensive 2-0 defeat over them last month at Emirates Stadium. However, a win in the return leg will elevate Sagna and company back at the top and the Frenchman is targeting just that.

Sagna said: “We are professional footballers and we want to finish first. We want to win the maximum amount of games. This is a big challenge now to be the best in the group. But as players we always want to be the best. It would mean we play against a team who finish second in their group. But at this stage of the competition every team is good. So we have to keep focused on our team, keep going and keep working hard.”

Regarding his battle for first-team spot with his impressive understudy Carl Jenkinson, he added: “We always have the same battle and that is to fight for the shirt at Arsenal and bring the team to the top. I am very happy for him because he did very well. For me it will push me to give the maximum game by game. I have the opportunity now so I will give the maximum. If he is playing then I will push him to become one of the best right-backs and that is what he has the potential to be.”

 

Wenger: Arsenal’s Forgetful Nature the Cause of Recent Slump

Arsene Wenger has said that his players have forgotten their actual level of quality and that is why their form has deteriorated in the recent past.

After an impressive start to the new season, the Gunners have lost their way and Wenger believes his team’s confidence issues and not technical deficiencies are the reason behind their recent troubles.

In an effort to instil some much-needed belief in his squad ahead of their Champions League clash with Schalke, Wenger said: “I believe that overall if you look at our overall performance we are indeed good, we are still the best defence in the league.If you look at the goals conceded, I believe at the moment we don’t have to focus too much on that. I think what is most important is that we find our game back.

“Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive. That at the moment is a bit missing so the most important thing. I believe I have a team of great players and at the moment they have forgotten it a little bit how good they are. What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than about do we concede a goal or not. That is the most important thing.”

 

Holtby Downplays Gunners Link

Schalke midfielder and rumoured Arsenal target Lewis Holtby has played down media reports linking him with a winter move to Emirates Stadium and has assured his current club’s fans that his focus is solely on Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash with the Gunners.

The 22-year-old German, who is of English ancestry from his paternal side, starred in Schalke’s shock 2-0 win over Arsenal last month, after which it was suggested that Wenger might make a move for him. He could be available for cheap in January as he is already in the final year of his contract with Schalke but the player has refused to talk about his future.

Holtby told the press: “I think people talk about it too much in the media. I am blue and white, I am with Schalke and agents are there to deal with that. My focus is on the squad, the team, the club and tomorrow’s game. Other people can talk about it, but I just want three points for me and my team. Everything else I just put to the side. I play for Schalke, I don’t play for Liverpool, Arsenal or anyone else.”

 

Santos’ Shirt Swap Was Wrong – Wenger

After Ray Parlour, coach Arsene Wenger has also disapproved Andre Santos’ exchanging of shirts with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie at half-time of their 2-1 defeat last Saturday.

The Arsenal manager expressed his unhappiness over the incident but said that not too much should be read in the left-back’s ill-timed gesture.

Wenger said: “I spoke about that but I don’t want to make too much of a big story of that. I believe that was not the right thing to do at all, but that is not an explanation for our bad performance on Saturday.”

 

Wenger Admits Gunners Not Good Enough For Top Three Spot

Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal are losing the battle to finish the season in the top three but has insisted that doing so still remains his number one target.

After last weekend’s lacklustre display in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, the Gunners are nine points adrift of the league leaders, and the Frenchman is aware that his team is not good enough to warrant a place in the top three on current form.

Talking to the press on Monday, Wenger said: “We’re very far behind now. At the moment you cannot say that [we are good enough to challenge the top three], because we are far away. But that’s what we have to show, and that’s what the target is at the end of the season. We’ve played away at United, City, Liverpool and Stoke – so we’ve many difficult away games.

“But we were poor defensively here. There’s no obvious reason for that, apart from the fact we didn’t start well and United have quality up front. They score goals against everybody and they are better than us. It’s as simple as that. Away to Manchester City we drew 1-1, a good result, and didn’t suffer by comparison. Here, I just think we were not on full cylinders and looked much more vulnerable defensively than we did at the start of the season.”

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