Benitez plotting path to glory
Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones is braced for a “fast and
frantic” match against relegation rivals Barnsley on Saturday night
as his team bid to halt a seven-game losing streak.
The tea-time South Yorkshire derby sees two teams mired in
trouble towards the foot of the Championship go head to head at
And with the high of last season’s automatic promotion now a
distant memory, Jones has to rally his team for a tougher battle
Wednesday began the weekend in 23rd place, with Barnsley three
points better off in 22nd.
A Barnsley victory would mean the pressure mounts on Jones, who
this week said he felt it would be “harsh” if the Hillsborough
board decided on a change of manager.
The significance of the fixture will not be lost on the former
Southampton and Wolves boss, but he has attempted to treat it like
any other game.
“Is this a massive game? Yes – but they all are at a club like
Sheffield Wednesday,” Jones said on his club’s official
“We will approach this game in the right manner and I’m sure
Barnsley will too.
“Both teams are desperate for the points and the pace will be
fast, it will be frantic and the live TV cameras are there for
“All the ingredients are there and we now need to start turning
the performances into results.”
Barnsley striker Marcus Tudgay spent almost five years with
Wednesday earlier in his career but will not be taking it easy
against his old employers.
“(I have) tremendous memories,” he told Barnsley Player. “I
played a lot of games for them and scored some good goals and I
think my football started to blossom there.
“I had five great years and it will be good to see some of the
boys but it is work time for me and I will be wanting to do my
Tudgay has played for Wednesday against Barnsley before and
reckons the local derbies are always a little bit different to
“Obviously there is a little bit more pride,” he said.
“To come up against your rivals you want to be able to walk away
with your head high knowing you did a job and got the three
The French manager, 63, has in recent weeks come under intense
scrutiny, which intensified following a dramatic penalty shoot-out
loss away to League Two Bradford in the Capital One Cup in
Wenger has not delivered a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup and
there have been calls for him to step aside, while the players have
come in for criticism following a string of poor displays.
However, the long-serving Arsenal boss, whose deal runs until
the summer of 2014, has no doubt he and his team can improve.
“You think they don’t care and they go home and think they had a
fantastic game? They do care,” Wenger said.
“We prepare for games seriously.
“I have had groups who had fantastic results who were less
serious than these players, believe me, players who were less
focused than this team. Of course these players are hurting.”
Wenger, who sits on board meetings, has been criticised as being
too powerful within the club – branded “a dictator in many ways” by
one former Arsenal player, Stewart Robson.
The former Monaco boss, however, feels his experiences give him
a position of strength.
“My job is to be determined and give importance to what is
important,” Wenger said ahead of the Barclays Premier League game
at Reading on Monday night.
“What is important is I love football, I love this club and I
give my best for this club. The rest, I cannot interfere with.
“Believe me, I am highly focused on doing that and all the rest,
that doesn’t interfere with my thinking at all.
“I am very determined and very hungry.”
Wenger added: “I can understand that people criticise when the
results are not as expected, but it looks like it has become the
modern way to think.”
Despite their inconsistency in the Premier League, Arsenal are
still within striking distance of the top four and unlike both
Chelsea and Manchester City they have qualified for the knockout
stages of the Champions League once again.
Wenger said: “This season at the moment we are not happy with
what we have produced, but we will turn it around before the end of
Reports have also emerged of a growing rift between the manager
and his assistant Steve Bould.
Wenger, though, said: “We are a united staff team. You can
unfortunately not control all the lies that are written in the
“I believe it is a good opportunity to show that we are strong
inside the club and let people talk.
“We are criticised when our results are not good – we have to
take that on the chin, but that we have to face a lot of lies is
Hauling City into Europe’s elite is coming at a hefty price for
owner Sheikh Mansour, whose spending on the Blues has catapulted
well beyond ?1billion.
Less than a week after a defeat to Manchester United left City
adrift of their major domestic rivals, and in the wake of an
embarrassing Champions League group-stage exit, he might be
forgiven were he to wonder whether it has been worth it.
But Soriano, the former Barcelona man recruited to guide City on
the next stage of their staggering journey, is certain the club are
heading in the right direction.
“There are many reasons to be optimistic,” said Soriano.
“Having returned to the summit of English football in 2011-12,
the club has earned the chance to compete for a place as one of the
biggest and most successful globally in the years ahead.
“It is an opportunity we will work hard at to achieve.”
Although record turnover of ?231.1million is dwarfed by
Manchester United’s ?320.3million, it shows just how much progress
City have made.
And officials are confident even the latest huge losses will not
have an impact on their ability to meet UEFA’s strict Financial
Fair Play guidelines as ?15million comes from infrastructure and
youth development costs.
More importantly, approximately ?80million comes from contracts
that pre-date 2010, from which City expect to get some kind of
While the results, for the year to May 31, 2012, show marginal
increases in gate receipts and TV revenue, it is in the commercial
sector where City are making huge gains.
Revenue has gone up from ?64.7million to ?121.1million,
underlining City’s increased growing global exposure, which is
being shown in all areas, from merchandise to club tours.
Although eyebrows were raised by the ?400million, 10-year
contract with Etihad, who now have naming rights to both the
stadium and the under-construction City campus, City believe
history will show it to be a well-structured financial deal.
The campus will feature training pitches and the club academy
and includes the Etihad Stadium on its site.
Other contracts, such as a new kit manufacturing contract with
Nike, point to increased commercial revenue in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, City’s overall wage bill has risen from ?151.6million
City’s annual statement also confirms the “capital base of the
Club has also been strengthened through the issuing of ?169million
in new equity during the year, avoiding debt based funding and
continuing to ensure that the club is virtually debt free”.
Clearly, the largesse of Sheikh Mansour is still required to
make the club viable in the short term.
But the good news is that he seems to be in it for the long
Looking back on City’s title campaign, chairman Khaldoon Al
Mubarak said: “2011-12 will always be remembered as a particularly
significant year in the history of the club, a season when
Manchester City demonstrated an ability to win in even the most
challenging of circumstances.
“We experienced the Champions League, won the Premier League and
with two goals in added time [against QPR, to win the Premier
League title], redefined what is typical of City for a generation
The European champions could find themselves 13 points adrift of
Manchester United in the league and seven behind Manchester City by
the time they face Corinthians for the world title in Yokohama on
But, should they emerge victorious, interim manager Benitez
plans to repeat a speech that proved the catalyst for his Valencia
side’s Primera Liga triumph in 2003-04.
He said: “People have asked me questions about whether it’s a
“But, realistically, with three points for a game, if you win
two or three games in a row, you have more confidence.
“The team can win games in a row easily. How many? I don’t
“But three or four wins in a row, the confidence can be so high.
So why not?”
He added: “At Valencia, we were seven or eight points behind in
January and were in the hotel, in a corridor, and I was talking
with [Roberto] Ayala, [Santiago] Canizares and [Mauricio]
Pelligrino, maybe [Pablo] Aimar, and I told them we would win the
league. They thought I was crazy.
“But I told them we could win the league and I remember
Canizares saying that, after we’d finished eight points ahead of
Real Madrid, ‘He [Benitez] told us in January’.
“The way that we trained was key. And the way we train here, I
have confidence we will be better and better every single
Asked if he would make the same declaration to his Chelsea
players, Benitez revealed he would do so before their next Premier
“Yes – It will be about the first game, Aston Villa,” he
“If they can reproduce the same level in that match, I think
they will start building this confidence.”
He added: “When I talk to players here, I can see in their faces
that they have the belief.”
Benitez also had no doubt that he was the man to inspire that
The Spaniard went close but never managed to win the Premier
League in six attempts at Liverpool.
But he said: “I don’t have any doubt about the things I can
“Look at the CV and then analyse the CVs of other managers
people think are amazing in England, and you think, ‘What is going