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Wenger defiant after criticism

ARSENE Wenger had been seated for about three minutes of his press conference when he was asked to compare the difficulty of this past week to the other 845 in which he has managed Arsenal. A look of bemusement flashed across his face.

''I don't think about the situation in that way,'' he said. It was not the only abrupt answer of the day but it also did not conceal the truth, which is that Wenger has indeed never faced anything quite like this.

Questions followed on just about every issue confronting him, from the quality of recent signings and his relationship with assistant manager Steve Bould to the once unthinkable territory of whether he was still the right man for the job.

Wenger, as ever, was defiant and, in taking full responsibility for anything and everything that had gone wrong, also slightly masochistic. ''That's what I'm here for,'' he said. ''I'm responsible for results.''

There was also a hint of siege mentality as he declared that he had a ''united'' staff and attacked what he called the ''lies'' in the newspapers.

On his own position, he even appeared to invent a new adjective. ''I've answered that - let's not get parrot-ic.'' For the record, Wenger has previously always said that he will see out a contract that expires in 2014.


''My job is to give importance to what is important. What is important is I love football, I love this club and I give my best for this club. Our season will not be judged on how well we do in the [League] Cup but how well we do in the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.''

On the suggestion that 16 years could be too long in a job, he said: ''It can be an advantage because you have experience. You know you have gone through difficult periods before and you know how to turn it around.''

It is difficult, though, to recall Wenger going through a sustained period of such difficultly. He noted that defeat by Bradford was his first against lower-league opposition. But Arsenal is seventh in the league, two points off fourth but 15 adrift of Manchester United.

''These players are hurting,'' he said. ''I have had groups who had fantastic results who were less serious, less focused.''

Wenger was blunt on other questions. On the return of Thierry Henry: ''Nothing has happened.'' On Theo Walcott's contract stand-off: ''At least it keeps the newspapers busy.''

At the end, though, Wenger did have the good grace for a joke. Asked about spending ''big'' in January: ''We will buy Lionel Messi and we will surprise you.'' And, with that, he got up and left.