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Jan 9, 2012

Wenger: Champs League 'compulsory'

Arsene Wenger is adamant Arsenal must reach the top four this season, describing qualification for the Champions League as "compulsory" and more important than ending the club's six-year trophy drought.

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• ESPN Fan Films: The FA Cup journey

Wenger has guided the Gunners to the round of 16 in the Champions League once again this season. But before the team takes on AC Milan over two legs, they must face Leeds in a third-round FA Cup tie, which Wenger believes is a secondary concern to lifting themselves from fifth position in the Premier League.

"It is very important for us to win against Leeds on Monday night, but the basis of our life at the top level is dictated by the championship," said Wenger.

"If we can add on top of that the FA Cup, it is fantastic. However, our life, at the level where we are, with the wages we have, and the aspirations we have, is to play in the Champions League. After that you want, of course, to win all the other trophies.

"The FA Cup is something that is for enjoyment. It is a bonus that we want. But for us, Champions League is something which is needed and compulsory."

Arsenal may not have delivered any silverware since Patrick Vieira lifted the 2005 FA Cup after a penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in Cardiff, but Wenger insists the club have not stood still.

"You want your fans to be proud of trophies, but also to consider the achievement," he said.

"Everybody is entitled to view it differently, but you can't compare winning the Carling Cup to every year coming out of the group stage and every year qualifying for the Champions League.

"If we had been out of top European quality for 10 years and won one or two cups, it would be different, but I do not try to defend the fact that we did not win [trophies].

"It has always looked like 'ah you have not won a trophy so you have been nowhere for five years' - but in the same five years we have been in the semi-finals of the Champions League and final of the Champions League.

"One day you will realise that it is not as easy as it looks - and this year we are again one of the two [English] teams who qualified [for the last 16].

For now, Wenger says he would be pleased to add another FA Cup winners medal to his collection - if only he knew where they were. The 62-year-old Frenchman revealed he has never been one to place much sentimental value on silverware.

"I don't know where I have my medals or where the 'Invincibles' medal is, because it is more important what is in front of you. I look forward for the next game, for the next win. That is the life of a top-level player.

"A top-level player wants to play at the top. He wants to win medals, yes, but there is a difference between playing in the Champions League and playing at a lower level," he said.

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