February 19, 2013
Bayern boss backs under-fire Wenger
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has leapt to the defence of Arsene Wenger, labelling the recent criticism of his Arsenal counterpart as unfair ahead of the Champions League clash between the two sides.
Wenger faces the prospect of enduring an eighth consecutive season without silverware after Blackburn became the second lower division club this season to end the Gunners' hopes of domestic cup success.
In the wake of Saturday's embarrassing 1-0 FA Cup reverse, and with his side well out of the Barclays Premier League title picture, Wenger's last remaining hope of a trophy is the Champions League.
Standing in their way, however, are Heynckes' German giants.
Last season's runners-up are one of the favourites to return to the final this year after streaking 15 points ahead in the Bundesliga.
Heynckes, in the plush surrounds of the ballroom at the Landmark Hotel, offered his thoughts on his under-fire rival Wenger.
"You have to take into consideration that Arsenal are competing with teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City,'' he said.
"The way I see it, over the years they have been selling their best players whereas the other teams get in these world stars.
"If you have to compete with that I don't think it is fair to blame Arsene Wenger.
"Wenger is a great coach. You see the way his teams play.
"Arsenal has a lot of tradition and history. They play attractive football.
"If you take away the game against Blackburn they have been very positive. They're fifth in the league. They will be a very difficult opponent for us.''
Wenger has challenged his Arsenal team to concentrate on themselves and not what Bayern are capable of.
"What is important is that we focus on the quality of our game, that we play at our best and play with belief,'' said Wenger, who must do without full-back Nacho Monreal, the Spain international is cup-tied following his deadline-day transfer from Malaga.
"We have to put it in our head that we have 180 minutes to qualify and not to rush our game.
"If I listen to the questions, we are not favourites but I trust our quality, our spirit and our mental strength.
"It is always difficult to take a distance with the recent emotional fact, but the most important aspect is that we have a way to play which everyone in the team knows.
"We must play with a positive mentality, it is important you believe you have a good chance and quality enough to win.
"The psychological aspect, especially with what happened on Saturday, is more important than nothing else.''
Wenger accepts Arsenal must give themselves something to take back to the Allianz Arena next month, especially given their poor general record away from home in the Champions League.
"It is vital because 0-0 at home is a very good result in the Champions League knockout stages, but of course we will try to score goals,'' he said.
"However, 0-0 is not a disaster at home, but of course we are a team who are offensive and we will try to go forward and try to score goals.''
Arsenal will check on the fitness of defender Laurent Koscielny (calf). Carl Jenkinson comes back into the squad after a one-game suspension but fellow defender Kieran Gibbs remains out with a thigh injury.