Wenger won’t compromise title bid

Arsene Wenger has reassured Arsenal fans he can understand their FA

Cup love affair, but insists the Gunners must focus on their title

bid.

The last trophy Wenger won was the FA Cup in 2005 – a fourth

under his tenure. Arsenal gave their supporters a day out at

Wembley last season when reaching the semi-finals, before being

beaten by Chelsea after taking the lead.

While Wenger can understand the need for another decent run

in the world’s oldest knockout competition, which starts at West

Ham on Sunday, sustaining their challenge for the championship must

come first.

Victory at bottom club Portsmouth on Wednesday night made it

five wins from the last six league games, and crucially cut the

deficit to leaders Chelsea to just four points. Arsenal can reduce

that further by winning their match in hand against struggling

Bolton at Emirates Stadium next week.

Captain Cesc Fabregas and fellow midfielder Denilson have,

along with England forward Theo Walcott, been ruled out of the trip

to Upton Park. Alex Song is available before he heads off to the

African Nations Cup with Cameroon, while veteran defender Mikael

Silvestre and reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski could both also

feature as the Gunners boss keeps one eye on the Premier League

campaign.

“I will have to rest some players, that is for sure,” said

Wenger. “We want to win, but we want to protect our home games

against Bolton and Everton as well, to keep the momentum going.

“The Premier League is always more important [than the FA

Cup], but, in the eyes of the fans, we are looking for trophies.

“However, the Premier League is so hard that you want to take

care of your position.

“Two years ago we had a very good chance [at the title], and

we were not far away.

“At the moment we have to keep our spirit and out attitude,

then we have a chance.” Wenger added: “A season is judged on the

overall achievement, and people look to who has won the trophies –

but I also look at how we have done and how consistently we have

played.

“This team is enjoyable to watch, but also to manage because

I want to win every game.”

Despite openly admitting he is set to make changes, Wenger

will not simply pack the team with youngsters, as he does in the

Carling Cup on a regular basis.

“For us, the Carling Cup is exclusively for young players and

the FA Cup is one to win,” the Arsenal manager said.

“But we have worked for that policy, and it is not a

coincidence. There is four or five years of hard work and patience

behind that.

“Players are better at 19 than they are at 18, and better at

21 than at 19.

“We have so many players that we have a hard time finding

them a chance to play.”

Wenger has plenty of empathy for West Ham manager Gianfranco

Zola, whose side are struggling to keep out of the relegation zone.

The Hammers battled back from 2-0 down to rescue a point from their

league meeting between the two sides in October.

“I think the pressure on Zola is more on the championship,

because of West Ham’s position, and less on the FA Cup,” said

Wenger. “It is more important that they keep their position in the

Premier League.”

This time last year, Wenger left it late to conclude a deal

for Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin. The Arsenal manager would

rather move “early” in this transfer window, with a striker the

most likely target as Robin van Persie will be out for most of the

rest of the season – although Wenger maintains he has no specific

targets.

“For now I am like I was when I was a student and I had to

study for an exam, and I do not know what I will write,” he

quipped. Wenger would prefer to land someone who was not cup-tied

in Europe, unlike Arshavin last season.

However, a move for long-time target Marouane Chamakh now

appears off the agenda.

“Chamakh is in the Champions League with Bordeaux and at the

top of their league, so he will not move now,” said Wenger. “He has

four months [of his contract] to go with Bordeaux and they have no

interest in selling him.”