Wenger on Ozil and the top-four race

Beside all the usual build-up to Sunday’s big game against Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was asked a host of other questions in his pre-match press conference.

From Mesut Ozil’s reaction to the north London derby defeat, to how he would approach the Europa League next season, the manager fielded them all.

This is what he had to say:

on the players’ reaction this week…We’re focused on the next game. Of course we’re disappointed with the result and our performance as well. The best is to respond. We’ve come out of quite a good spell, so we want to bounce back. Sometimes there’s no better way than by having a big game straight away.

on Mesut’s reaction after the derby to being asked to do a drugs test…I am sorry that he kicked the door, but I can understand. I don’t think his frustration was towards the drug test, it was towards the fact that we lost the game and that is the only explanation I have. I didn’t speak about it with him because I only heard about it today.

on whether he will speak to Mesut about it…Yes, a little bit, yes, because I don’t know really what happened and it’s always good as well to get the player’s version.

on Mesut getting his driveway re-tarmaced and whether it means he will stay…Oh, that’s a good conclusion!

on whether there’s any news on Ozil’s contract…No.

on Arsenal’s record v top-seven teams this season…Away from home, we’ve faded in big games. We didn’t take enough points and that’s very difficult to explain because it was the reverse last season. We made many teams against all the big teams away from home. It was a turning point at Everton and Manchester City where we lost two games on the trot just after a Champions League game. It took our confidence away from us a little bit. Away from home, maybe even more than home, Cazorla was a very important player for us. He contributed a lot last season but this season we lost him very early.

on whether it’s mental or technical shortcomings…It’s always difficult to isolate one factor. I felt that defensively, away from home, we’ve conceded too many goals.

on whether Arsenal would take the Europa League seriously next season…I take every competition seriously. The only thing I always did over the years was to use the League Cup to give chances to young players. We always treated all the other competitions seriously.

on the Europa League offering Champions League qualification now…We decided that in Geneva to give the Europa League the chance of being taken seriously again. Most of the big clubs didn’t play with their strongest team when they played in the Europa League. To make the Europa League a bit more attractive, we opened the door to qualify [for the Champions League]. It’s not automatic qualification, you have to go through the qualifiers. That was a good incentive to put the best teams in again and be motivated. If you look at the teams who won the Europa League recently, they’ve always been teams who have been kicked out of the group stage of the Champions League, always. This year, it can be Manchester United who started the competition, but of course Manchester United are a massive club. They are entitled to fight for it.

on whether Europa League qualification will change recruitment policy…I don’t think so. We’ll deal with it. If we have to face it, we’ll deal with it. At the moment, we are not there.

on whether it would mean a longer list of targets…No, it means we focus on the same players.

on whether a top-four finish will make it more likely he’ll stay…I don’t want to speak about my personal case any more.

on whether it’s relevant to his decision…Not necessarily, no. Why? Why not? I just told you I don’t want to speak about it.

on saying he would announce his decision on his future in March or April…And we are in May. That means I was wrong.

on how he deals with losing…Very badly. But unfortunately in a manager’s career, you have to go through it. In our job is too - this week we have spoken about Aaron Lennon - mental problems. In this job, people underestimate a little bit the stress even the players are under to perform and to be capable. I think we need to be a bit more balanced, because in life you always ave ups and downs. The only difference maybe in our jobs are that the ups are higher and the downs are lower. So it puts more difference between the ups and the downs and that is what we have to deal with.

on whether he needs the stress anymore…Yes, because I love the positive side of it. I love to win. I love to prepare for something that is big. The excitement is to prepare for something and to hope to do well.

on where he could manage if not at Arsenal…I don’t know, it’s not at the moment. I’m focused on Manchester United.

on whether he could see himself managing France or PSG…I am just focused on Arsenal and Manchester United. The next game is Arsenal, so that is the only interest I have at the moment.


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