Tap-ups hurt past title pushes – Wenger

28 Feb

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger won the Premier League title in 1998, 2002 and 2004, but has not done so since

Some of Arsenal’s recent Premier League title challenges have been damaged by their players being approached by other clubs, manager Arsene Wenger says.

Wenger’s side have developed an unwanted reputation for failing to win the league from promising positions.

The manager says his team are better placed now as there is no squad unrest.

“When we went into April, some of the players were tapped up to go somewhere else and it was difficult to maintain the focus,” he said.

“That’s not the case at the moment.”

Arsenal – who are five points behind leaders Leicester ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United – last won the Premier League in 2004, when they went through the 38-game campaign without defeat.

They were runners-up to Chelsea the following season, and have finished either third or fourth every year since.

A number of significant challenges for the title in the last 12 years have failed to bring the Premier League trophy to the club.

William Gallas and Arsene Wenger<!–

Arsenal’s then-captain William Gallas initially refused to leave the pitch after a 2-2 draw at Birmingham in 2008

In February 2008, they were five points clear of Manchester United with 12 games left, but were derailed by a 2-2 draw at Birmingham in which striker Eduardo suffered a bad leg break and captain William Gallas remained sitting on the pitch at full-time in a public show of anger.

Two seasons later, Wenger’s side were top of the table with seven matches to play, but won only two of those games and finished third.

They were in a strong position to push Manchester United in 2010/11, but began to crumble in the February as they let slip a four-goal lead in drawing 4-4 at Newcastle, and ended up dropping from second place to fourth.

And two seasons ago, Arsenal were top in early February, but a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool began a run of just two wins in nine matches, and they ended in fourth place again.

Leon Best<!–

Arsenal lost a 4-0 half-time lead in drawing at Newcastle in February 2011

“What is different is that at that time we were losing momentum,” Wenger said. “This time it’s the opposite.

“Also we were very young at that time, with the famous incident with Gallas at Birmingham. And the mood of some players was more to get the next contract somewhere else than to win the championship because at the time we had to sell our players.

“Now we do not have that problem. All the players are focused and want to win and have great solidarity. It’s down to showing how good we are. The psychological situation is completely different today than it was in 2010.

“In 2010, I would say we lost it because the spirit was not exactly what it should be because of individual tap ups. At the moment, on the spirit front we are all right.”


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