Arsene Wenger believes that a top four finish for Arsenal will represent an ‘acceptable’ campaign as the Gunners gear up for their first Premier League game of the season.
Without a trophy since 2005, the Frenchman is under extreme pressure from fans to end the trophy drought at the Emirates as soon as possible. Nevertheless, despite making clear that the ultimate aim is to win either the Champions League or Premier League, he appears happy enough to play down expectations by defining success in broader terms.
In an interview filmed ahead of the Emirates Cup for Barclays Premier League World and screened for the first time this evening on ESPN, Wenger was quizzed on what he felt would be a successful season for his young squad.
“I basically think if we win the Premier League or Champions League that will be a huge success, if we finish in the top three or four it will be acceptable, anything outside of the top four will be a bad season.”
While the Gunners have successfully qualified for the Champions League for 14 consecutive seasons, an enviable record in anybody’s book, the lack of silverware has caused a great deal of frustration amongst supporters who feel the club have lost huge ground on traditional title-rivals Manchester United.
While the rivalry between the two clubs hit its peak in the late nineties and early noughties the once fiery relationship between Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson has since mellowed, with the Gallic tactician happy to congratulate the Scot for keeping the Red Devils at the top of the Premier League pile.
“You have of course to congratulate him for everything he has done. They have won the last two titles at home, at Old Trafford, not away.
“They were a normal team away from home last year and two years ago as well. At home; that’s where they managed to get more points than any other team. His achievement…you can only stand up and say ‘well done’.”
If Arsenal are to challenge for honours in the coming years, then 19-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere will no doubt be an integral part of the Gunners squad. The Academy graduate enjoyed a breakthrough season last term, impressing domestically, in Europe and on England international duty before being crowned PFA Young Player of the Year.
Adding to the plaudits already lavished on his protégé, Wenger again reasserted his belief that Wilshere has everything in his locker to become one of the world’s best.
“Basically Jack Wilshere can be the complete midfielder; that means he can defend, give the final ball and score,” said Wenger.
“You want him to improve on his defensive side because he is naturally an offensive player. I believe that with the experience he has gained he will be giving more final balls and he will score a few goals.”
While the North Bank and Clock End will be praying that Wilshere can help spearhead a revival of fortunes on the pitch, Wenger has also backed new Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke to become a more prominent figure off the field. Nicknamed ‘Silent Stan’ for his low-profile and refusal to speak to the media, many questions have been asked of the American businessman and his intentions in North London. Eager to reassure supporters of Kroenke’s passion for investing in major sports franchises, Wenger said of his new boss:
“He is a man who loves sport. No matter how rich you are, if you own four different sports clubs it shows you that he is deeply passionate about sport.
“Until now I think he lets people who are responsible inside the club work, which is a credit to him. On his personal side I don’t know him well enough to speak about him.
“I think you will know him better, he will turn up [to matchs] much more than he has done until now and we will learn to know him.”