Wenger: Gunners as good as United
Arsene Wenger maintains his Arsenal attack are as good as Manchester United and intends to prove the point by delaying the champions elect a title party with victory at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The Gunners have little other than restoring wounded pride left to play for, given they are now secure in fourth place in the Premier League and having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Chelsea at Wembley before being handed a European lesson when outclassed over two legs in the semi-final against United.
Nevertheless, a defiant Wenger insists his young side can still show their true worth by producing a shock win when they return to Old Trafford, where a draw would be good enough for the Red Devils' record-equalling 18th championship following their late 2-1 victory at Wigan last night. "We have a very promising team who can deliver very soon," insisted Wenger.
"If you look at the statistics of the two teams, we have scored a similar amount of goals. In the passing quality in the final third and in the opposition half, we are as good as Manchester United. We have conceded more goals and that is where the difference lies; we have conceded 36, they have conceded 24, we have scored 64, they have scored 67. Offensively, I do not believe there is a difference. Defensively, there was a difference."
Wenger added on the title: "It looks like it will be Manchester United, but we can still delay it. We have a point to prove, definitely. We want to play for our pride and be respected for who we are, that is people who love the game they play. We promised ourselves on 1 January we would give everything in every game until the end of the season. That is where we can show we are capable to do that."
However, the Arsenal manager accepted as a unit, United were the best around. "I feel the 18-point gap is a reflection we have to take on the chin," said Wenger. "What people forget is that we were very far behind and we dropped too many points.
"Manchester United are world champions, European champions and will be champions of England. Everybody has to cope with that, not accept it and come back next year and beat them."
Much has been made of Arsenal's inability to mount a serious title challenge this season, while also failing to overcome the final hurdle in Europe. There have been many calls - from fans and ex-players alike - for Wenger to spend heavily on experienced men this summer to add to the talent of youth.
Wenger - who has won three league titles and reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, but has not secured silverware now for four successive seasons - maintains he will not "bust" the club just to satisfy demand for a big-name signing. "I believe every manager has the same problem, to manage within his own resources," he said. "I look now like I do not want to spend money, but I have nothing against spending money.
"I just feel we have a team who can be very competitive and we want, as always, to manage this club within its resources. I will do that. If you want me to get the club bust, I am not the person to do that, that is for sure."
Wenger added: "I believe in this team and from what I have seen in this team, that makes me quite optimistic. These players have the quality to beat anybody else. If we can add one or two players with the resources we have, then we will do it."
Czech international Tomas Rosicky, out since January 2008, has now returned to training following hamstring and leg problems, but will not play again this season. Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia (ankle) will miss the United game, but Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin has recovered from a virus.