His side may be sitting sixth in the Premier League standings, are spending a season in the Europa League and appear to have a nasty habit of conceding the first goal at the moment, but Arsene Wenger insists his current squad are more united and focused than any he’s coached.
Hyperbole? Almost certainly. A tactic to maintain motivation? Possibly. The truth? A smidgen, perhaps…although it would be surprising given so many of the squad have unresolved contract situations hanging over them.
Ahead of Arsenal’s home showdown with Red Star Belgrade, the boss sang the praises of his first team members.
“I personally believe my biggest pleasant experience is how focused the whole squad is in every single game,” he said.
“That is the first time in my life that I see that, how united and focused the entire squad is.
“I am really honest when I say that. You cannot say that any player, in any competition, has gone a little bit easy, the focus of the team has always been exceptional.
“The key to that is the fact that there is a good understanding in the squad,” he added.
“They all know each other well and play together for quite a while. They have had positive and negative experiences and they always responded well and I think there is respect within the squad that is an important ingredient.”
Arsenal can seal qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League with a draw tomorrow evening. With one eye on Sunday’s trip to Manchester it’s pretty much nailed on that there will be wholesale changes from the team that beat Swansea.
“I’m not tempted [to play Alexis, Ozil and Alex Lacazette] because I have another trio who will play on Thursday night, like Walcott, Wilshere and Giroud. It’s very difficult to make a [change].
“They all want competition, they all deserve competition because of their quality. If you look at the number of minutes played by all of these players since the start of the season, many of them are in very competitive shape and that should be an advantage of us for the rest of the season.”