Wenger claims 'safe' teams are going on holiday early

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blames his fifth-placed team's predicament on a lack of consistency during the Premier League season.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blames his fifth-placed team's predicament on a lack of consistency during the Premier League season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has questioned the integrity of some Premier League teams who have secured their top-flight status for next season, as he faces the prospect of failing to guide Arsenal to the Champions League for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

The Gunners played Sunderland early this morning (Singapore time) and will face Everton on Sunday. Even victories in those games may not earn a top-four spot, after Liverpool thrashed West Ham 4-0 last Sunday.

Two wins would give Wenger's side 75 points - nine more than Manchester City managed last season in securing the final Champions League spot. If Liverpool defeat relegated Middlesbrough on Sunday and City take four points from matches at home to West Bromwich Albion and away to Watford, however, it will be impossible for Arsenal to finish in the top four.

Wenger appeared to suggest his side's chances had been diminished by the number of clubs who have nothing to play for other than pride.

"It will be frustrating," the Arsenal manager said. "I still think we just have to give our best to get to 75 points and, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. At least we have done our job well to the end.

"We have two leagues. For example we had to fight very hard at Stoke and Southampton but some teams, once they are safe, just have a breather, which didn't happen 10 years ago.

"The league has changed mentally. Morally it has changed a lot."

Pressed on the teams to which he was referring, Wenger was reluctant to expand.

"I don't want to judge that," he said when asked whether West Ham had failed to put in a performance on Sunday to match their surprise 1-0 victory over title-chasing Tottenham last week.

"We can only influence our own behaviour and take care of ourselves, not judge too much the others. Normally in an ideal world you want to rely on your own results. Unfortunately for us, it's not the case now but the only thing we can have a chance is to influence our own results and keep going."

Wenger's claim that some teams are already "on holiday" was rejected by Pep Guardiola.

"I don't understand how the managers speak for the other clubs and the other teams," City's manager said. "Ask Arsene, not me.

"I never saw one player in my life go on to the pitch and not try to win the game. But if you don't want this situation (depending on others to get results), you have to win more games yourself.

"He plays against Everton and Sunderland, no? Both teams are done, no? One is relegated and one is in the Europa League, so it's the same situation, so you don't want to complain."

Wenger admitted his own team's failings will be to blame if they finish outside the top four for the first time since he arrived at the club more than 20 years ago.

"I would say we would be a victim of a lack of consistency that we have shown through the season," he said.

As for whether he would take the Europa League seriously, the Frenchman did not appear enthusiastic despite insisting that he would not field weakened teams.

"Apart from the League Cup, where we play always the younger players to give them a chance to develop, we take all the other competitions seriously," he said.

"I'm in my eighth FA Cup final. You don't do that if you don't take competitions seriously."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger claims 'safe' teams are going on holiday early'. Print Edition | Subscribe