AW hails miracle-worker McCarthy

The Gunners had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the game following

the decision to put the fixture back from Boxing Day because of

industrial action by some London Underground staff. While Arsenal

have their sights set firmly on the top four after bouncing back

from the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City with an away win at Aston

Villa, Wolves are scrapping for every point to stay clear of being

dragged into a relegation battle. Wenger has the utmost respect for

the job McCarthy is overseeing at the Black Country club, under

what have been testing circumstances following criticism from some

sections of the Molineux faithful this season. “Mick McCarthy is

doing miracles at Wolves,” Wenger said in his programme notes for

Tuesday’s match. “He is always ready for a fight, never gives up,

keeps his steadiness and mental strength, never shows any strain.

“It is great what he does for his club. I believe they play

extremely good football as well.” Wenger had been impressed by

McCarthy’s determination. “It demands special strength from the

manager to fight until the last day with the uncertainty sometimes

whether you will stay up,” the Arsenal boss said. “A manager needs

to be cool-blooded, strong, resilient and Mick McCarthy has all of

these qualities.” Arsenal have won eight of their last 10 league

games to turn the season around and close back to within striking

distance of the top four. The Gunners produced another impressive

display to secure all three points at Villa Park last Wednesday

night, with Yossi Benayoun coming off the bench to head a late

winner. The Israeli midfielder, on loan from Chelsea, has yet to

start in the Premier League this season, but Wenger believes a

collective team ethic runs deep within the current group. “[The

Aston Villa result] showed the importance of the squad, but also

the quality of the spirit,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “That makes

a difference if you have players who come on that have a real

desire to help the team. “You always have a chance because teams

have to fight so hard against us that in the last 20 minutes fresh

players can have a big impact.” Arsenal head towards 2012 with

their defence stretched because of injury, which could see Wenger

enter the loan market when the transfer window opens again on

January 1. He is also set to make a decision on whether to bring

former captain Thierry Henry back on a short-term deal ahead of the

new Major League Soccer season. Wenger feels having to field four

centre-backs across the rearguard has left his team looking for

other options when starting attacks. “We are a bit more cautious

going forward because a centre-back is not a full-back,” the

Arsenal manager said. “Maybe we are a little bit more resilient

defensively and a bit stronger in the air, but overall it doesn’t

change a lot and we still try to play out from the back with our

passing game.” Swiss international defender Johan Djourou could

return from a minor groin problem tomorrow, while Wenger must also

decide whether to rest skipper Robin van Persie, who is close to

breaking the Premier League goals record for a calendar year. With

34 goals he is two short of Alan Shearer’s record.