Wenger: 8-2 not our worst defeat
Arsene Wenger has admitted the 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United last season was a major embarrassment, yet he insists it was not his worst moment as Arsenal manager.
Wenger has picked out the 2006 Champions League final defeat against Barcelona in Paris as his most humbling moment in 16 years as Gunners boss. He says a solitary Premier League defeat at Old Trafford counted for little, despite the alarming nature of the final scoreline.
Arsenal return to the scene of their humiliation on Saturday with their confidence in a fragile state following a series of indifferent performances in league and cup competitions. Wenger insists he is not daunted by the prospect of facing United at a moment when his side's confidence has been dented, despite their thrilling comeback in the 7-5 win at Reading on Tuesday night.
"Of course I was embarrassed to lose like that to our big rivals because I want our fans to be proud and I know they were hurt deeply after that game," stated Wenger. "Losing 8-2 affects your environment because you feel humiliated after such a result, but I honestly feel it did not affect our long term belief.
"This is why I say it wasn't my worst moment in football. The worst is when you lose a Champions League final in the final minutes, a game that has real meaning and significance.
"There is purely an emotional aspect to losing 8-2 at the start of a season, but there is no mathematical consequence. The real test is to get over the hurdle in the following three weeks. Once you have got over that, the mood in the camp is totally different.
"I am still always an optimist," added Wenger. "I always have hope that my team will create something special, as they did at Reading the other night."
Wenger puts the defeat at Old Trafford last season down to "special circumstances" and clearly found solace in the injury list and preparations ahead of a game against a rampant United side.
"Three nights before Old Trafford, we played a Champions League qualifier in 35-degree heat in Udinese," he recalls. "I knew we would be dead for the weekend, but the Udinese match was our most important game of that week and we got the result we needed.
"We lost Sagna, Vermaelen and Gibbs in that game and we went out at Old Trafford very exposed. This is why I say special circumstances played a part in the result."