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Emirates promise pleases Wenger
Published : 24 May 2009 10:35:41
When Wenger does eventually close the door on the manager's office and walks out of Emirates Stadium for the last time, there is no doubt he will have left the club in a far better shape than when he arrived. 'Arsene Who?' was the famous derogatory headline which followed the appointment of the elegantly dressed but little known bespectacled Frenchman at Highbury in late September 1996. However, more than a decade later, after three league titles, which included the double twice, an unbeaten league campaign as well as an appearance in the Champions League final and Wenger's name is lauded around the globe - with the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich both having tried, but so far failed, to wrestle him away from his beloved Gunners. Yet Wenger, who turns 60 later this year, is also a realist. The respected French coach knows, despite the promise shown by his young side, that a fourth straight campaign without a trophy is not good enough for a club now so used to success. Nevertheless, none of those who would be quick to sharpen the knives and call for a fresh approach could claim Wenger's mark has not be indelibly sealed on the psyche of the north London club. "First of all, legacy is about leaving every important aspect of the club in a good situation," reflected Wenger, who will be given a rousing, appreciative welcome from supporters at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. "That means you leave a good squad, good young players, a good financial situation and a good structure of the game at the club. "What is the most important is the club goes on and continues to improve. "That for me is the biggest pride for any manager who has a positive ambition and philosophy." Wenger declared: "The state of our club is fantastic. "At a big club, it is simple. There is philosophy, a style of play and a culture of how you want to play the game. We have all that. "People think it is a disaster to get to the semi-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup, while finishing fourth. Okay, so you can do better, but if that is a disaster, then the future of the club is very promising." Wenger takes his men into Sunday's final match of the Premier League campaign at home to Stoke left to reflect on what might have been. A serious title challenge never left the ground following five defeats before the end of November, although a 21-match unbeaten run then put the Gunners back into the top four. Dreams of FA Cup glory were shattered by Chelsea at Wembley, before the European campaign was abruptly ended following Manchester United's masterclass over two legs in the semi-final. While Wenger can point to genuine areas of progress, he accepted: "In the big games, we were still a bit young and played a bit the occasion more, because we were under a lot of pressure and wanted to do so well. "We were punished this season by a bad start, with five defeats in 14 games, to win the championship after that is very difficult. "But on the other hand since we have responded, under a lot of negative pressure, in a remarkable way. "I believe in the mental strength and the quality of this team." However, Wenger feels from every perceived negative, positives can be drawn - such as in the example of 19-year-old Kieran Gibbs, who was thrown in at the deep end following injury to regular left-back Gael Clichy for the closing weeks of the season. "This year, a player like Kieran Gibbs has been a revelation. I believe he will play for England, and if it happened very quickly, I would not be surprised," said the Arsenal manager. "However, what happened to him in the second leg of the Manchester United game will not happen to him next year. "We have discovered a player that at the start of the season, no one expected to see." Arsenal may have finished well off the pace in terms of the title race, but Wenger maintains the gap is closer than reflected in the final table. "Manchester United won only one game against the top four. Where Man United made a difference was between 10 and 20. They made all doubles [wins] in there," he said. "They are not as far as people think from the top four teams. "Man United were more consistent and found their stride in the right moment of the season. "But I believe nobody is installed indefinitely in the top four and can say 'Okay we are miles ahead'. I do not believe that at all."