Arsene Wenger suggested Barcelona have "not respected the rules" during his pre-match press conference in the build-up to Arsenal's crucial Premier League game with Everton.
The French boss spoke honestly about the Blaugrana's recently imposed transfer ban in a media appearance that spanned a variation of interesting topics. Wenger also acknowledged rumours suggesting Roberto Martinez will succeed him as boss, played down Arsenal's title hopes and revealed Aaron Ramsey is due to return.
Undoubtedly the top headline-maker will be Wenger's words on Barca. FIFA's official punishment ensures the Spanish side can't sign any player until the summer of 2015 after they were judged to have immorally acquired youngsters below the age of 18.
Wenger believes Barcelona are in the wrong but insists changes are needed to the current system, as reported by Miguel Delaney of ESPN FC:
Wenegr on Barca: "Certainly they have not respected the rules... [but the rules] create a big debate."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Wenger on Barca ban: "I think the rules need to be changed because there is more competition now for young players."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Wenger on Barca ban: "The parents will be tempted to give a chance to their young boys, to have a great career."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Wenger: "What is not alright is the children move at 16 without their parents- if the clubs take care of parents, maybe have to go that way"— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Arsenal's slip from Premier League leaders to fourth has forced many into considering the club after Wenger. Despite recently reaching his 1,000th game in charge—the dismal 6-0 defeat to Chelsea—rumours have circulated suggesting Martinez could be installed as the next Emirates boss, per David Woods of the Daily Star.
Wenger gave this very little thought, and unlike Sir Alex Ferguson selecting David Moyes as his Manchester United successor, wants nothing to do with the process, per Delaney:
Wenger on Martinez potentially succeeding him: "I told you many times it's not my job to say who will follow me one day."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
The Gunners' recent 1-1 draw with Manchester City leaves Arsenal seven points off the Premier League summit. With just six games to play, Wenger knows his side only have a small chance of taking the crown, per the club's official Twitter account:
Wenger cracked a joke when discussing the dangers faced by every team still in the running, reported via the official feed and Delaney:
Wenger on title race: "There's still a lot of twists and turns I think until the end of the season, and no clear favourite."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Wenger talking about City as favourites as man crawls up to desk to fix microphone. Wenger looks: "You see? Danger can come from anywhere."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 4, 2014
Arsenal fans were also granted some important team news. Wenger confirmed Mesut Ozil will miss the upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Wigan, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
Wenger says Ozil will not be fit for next weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Wigan. #afc— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 4, 2014
He also revealed both Ramsey and Nacho Monreal are fit to face Everton, reported by BBC Sport:
Arsene Wenger says that Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal are in the Arsenal squad for the trip to Everton this Sunday. http://t.co/ucj9YIqUg7— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 4, 2014
The return of Ramsey is sure to boost Arsenal's confidence heading into the season's most important stretch. He netted eight goals in 18 domestic division appearances prior to picking up an injury in December, per WhoScored.com, ensuring his return could kick-start momentum.
Arsenal need all the help they can get if they are to continue challenging. Although their chances of winning the Premier League are slim, failure to beat Everton all but ends their attempt for another season.
While Arsenal fans will remember this type of capitulation from years gone by, Wenger and his players could still end the season on a high with ultimate victory in the FA Cup.