herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Wenger: Time for next step

Arsene Wenger wants his Arsenal side to go and lift the Carling Cup tomorrow, but has warned them of bigger challenges - and bigger prizes - in the months ahead.

Much has been made of the Gunners' trophy drought, which stretches back to the 2005 FA Cup and coincided with their move from Highbury.

Arsenal have not stood still in that time, either on or off the pitch, reaching the final of both the Champions League and Carling Cup since, while also pressing hard for the domestic title only to fall short at the final hurdle.

Wenger, though, still believes the club's achievements in delivering consistent top-level European football at their new 60,000-seater home in Ashburton Grove cannot be undervalued.

"It is always very difficult to say whether it is harder to finish always in the top four, or to win the Carling Cup," the Arsenal manager said.



CONSISTENCY

"The most difficult is consistency at the top, and the proof of that is that only two clubs have been able to finish in the top four for each of the last 12 years, us and Manchester United.

"It is true that winning the Carling Cup will mean we don't have to answer that question any more about whether we can win trophies.

"It will be important for the confidence of the team for the rest of the season." Wenger added: "We have a young squad and this will do much for their confidence. Winning the Carling Cup will be like beating Chelsea, like beating Barcelona - another step forward."



CHALLENGES

Arsenal will be without both captain Cesc Fabregas, who has a hamstring problem, and England forward Theo Walcott, sidelined by an ankle sprain, after what proved to be a costly midweek Premier League win over Stoke.

Wenger admitted given the challenges ahead, he had to be cautious with Fabregas. "Cesc is disappointed, but his disappointment is diminished by the fact that we have other main targets after this game, like the championship, the Champions League and the FA Cup," Wenger said. "If he was playing, he could damage his participation in all the other targets after that."

There will, though, be no open top bus parade around Islington should Arsenal triumph at Wembley. Wenger quipped: "On Monday morning we come in and practise to win against Leyton Orient (in the FA Cup fifth-round replay)."

The Gunners boss is also not concerned about any long-overdue additions to his personal medal collection.

"I am a futurist, not nostalgic," he said.

"I have given some (medals) away, some must be in a cupboard, somewhere. Frankly, I am not collecting at all."

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