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

added spice.

“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

other matches.

“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

the season.”

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

less acceptable.”

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

to ?178.1million.

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

of supporters.”

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

two-horse race.

“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

League match.

“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

on here?”‘