Wolverhampton V Arsenal at Molineux Stadium : Match Preview
11 April 2012 05:04
No dressing-room unrest - Connor
Wolves boss Terry Connor has stressed any signs of disharmony at the club are simply indicators of how his players are trying to push each other on in their battle to beat the drop.
Things are looking increasingly desperate for the Barclays Premier League basement boys, whose 2-1 defeat at Stoke on Saturday - their sixth successive loss - meant they remained six points adrift of safety with only six games left.
The players' frustration at their plight appeared evident a week earlier when Wolves captain Roger Johnson and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey squared up to each other on the field during the 3-2 home defeat to Bolton.
Following the Stoke match, their team-mate Stephen Ward said he did not feel there was "unrest" in the camp, suggesting that with any struggling side there will be "a couple of spats here and there" that are "nothing serious".
Asked if there was any dressing-room unrest, Connor said: "No - there are demands made of each other.
"It is a strong dressing room with some characters in there, but it is just the demands they place on each other - on the pitch, on the training field and sometimes in the dressing room.
"They are not all going to have the same opinion.
"As I said last week, the spat between Roger and Wayne was two players on the pitch heated, sweating, wanting their team to win and having a disagreement.
"Personally, I don't like to see it done in public, but it does happen.
"As long as we resolve that, move on from there and the players are fine with each other, that is all you can ask."
Johnson was dropped to the bench for the Stoke game - the armband being passed back to fit-again midfielder Karl Henry, who had been stripped of it last summer - and it remains to be seen whether or not the defender will be restored to the side against Arsenal.
Connor says the decision to demote Johnson was made with "no malice" and insists the flare-up with Hennessey had no bearing upon it.
"I dropped him because I wanted a performance against Stoke with certain players playing in certain positions," Connor said.
"That is the reason Roger did not play - nothing other than that.
"You look at the opposition, you see what they have to offer, you look at your own players, you review the previous week's performance, you watch how they are in training and you make a judgment come the end of the week about what you want to put out on the pitch."
Mikel Arteta has insisted Arsenal have had enough wake-up calls against so-called lesser opponents this season to take nothing for granted at Wolves.
The Gunners are red-hot favourites to tighten further their grip on the Barclays Premier League's third and final automatic Champions League spot when they travel to Molineux.
Rock-bottom Wolves have lost their last six matches, while Arsenal have won seven of their last eight.
But the one blip in that spell came at QPR just over a week ago, the latest shock defeat for Arsene Wenger's men away from home this season following surprise setbacks at Blackburn, Fulham and Swansea.
Arteta said: "I don't think it will be easy at Wolves. We have some good examples this year when we have dropped points against teams near the bottom.
"We have to go there with the right mentality and the right approach and sense of pride.
"When you're playing away from home, there are no easy games in the Premier League."
The sentiments of Arteta, who has been key to Arsenal's resurgence in the last month and a half and netted the winner in Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester City, were echoed in the most recent programme notes of captain Robin van Persie.
Van Persie wrote: "I remember when - without being disrespectful - I first arrived here, there were some games when I was thinking less about whether we would win or not and more about who would score for us and how many we would get.
"There were some games like that in my first couple of years, but those days are 100% finished because the so-called smaller teams have improved so much. Look at the league table, there are battles all the way down.
"That QPR game was a wake-up call for us. I don't believe that we didn't work hard, because I have seen the stats and we did work hard physically, but everyone realises you need to be 100% against every single team, or you will be punished."
A win would take Arsenal - who are without the suspended Laurent Koscielny - five points clear of Tottenham and Newcastle in the race to finish best of the rest behind the Manchester clubs.