Arsene Wenger spoke boldly and confidently on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League showdown with Manchester City, insisting he does not envy their rivals because he has more creative options.
Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff boasts huge significance. A defeat for Arsenal could see their lead at the top of the table cut to two points. Victory, however, would put a nine-point gap between them and City.
His counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini, has a plethora of attacking options he can select to face the Gunners, with Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko all vying for a starting role.
Wenger really only has Olivier Giroud, discounting the erratic services of Nicklas Bendtner, but he rejected the suggestion of jealousy, per Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail Online:
"City has a strong squad, I don't deny that but when I look at my squad I don't envy them.
"We have more creative players and we are more versatile. It's easier for me to rotate."
Wenger’s comment centres on the two sides’ respective midfield options. The Frenchman has Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, all of whom can play a variety of positions.
Added to that group, he then has the more one-dimensional figures of Theo Walcott, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta.
City, by contrast, have several players limited to their roles. Jesus Navas can only play on the right wing, Yaya Toure, Javi Garcia and Fernandinho can only operate centrally, leaving Samir Nasri, David Silva and James Milner as Pellegrini’s three multifaceted options.
Arsenal have scored 11 goals fewer than their weekend rivals and will see their title hopes doubted heavily if they lose at the Etihad. Wenger, though, says the pressure is on City:
Let’s not forget if City lose they are nine points behind, so they have negative pressure. We have positive pressure.
We want to do well, we have a cushion, we are not under massive pressure.We have an opportunity to show we are a good team and that’s an opportunity we want to take.
Wenger has been strongly linked to a new contract in Friday’s national newspapers, after Arsenal’s place was confirmed in the knockout phase of the Champions League.
The French boss never likes to commit until he is sure his team are heading in the right direction, which is surely the case as they lead the Premier League and progress in Europe. John Cross of Mirror Football reports:
Arsenal will step up their attempts to get Arsene Wenger to sign a new three-year contract after their progression in the Champions League.
Negotiations have been going on since the summer and Mirror Sport revealed in October that a £24million offer is on the table.
James Olley of the London Evening Standard tweeted Wenger's latest comments on his contract situation:
It seems unlikely any deal will be announced while the Gunners are involved in such an important period of the season. They face City and Chelsea before the end of the year, and Wenger will surely be focused on keeping his team on top heading into 2014, rather than securing his own future.
Few Arsenal fans will worry about the eventual outcome, knowing Wenger is always one to put the club first and his own interests second.