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Arsene Wenger has Arsenal in fine shape

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Wenger sorry for "excessively criticised" Benitez

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has jumped to the defence of under-fire Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, insisting the criticism levelled at the Spaniard is undeserved and "excessive".

• Pennant: Rafa ruining Reds

The Reds are in their worst run of form for 22 years, with four defeats in the Premier League already, and face a crunch clash against league leaders Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

Wenger, though, feels the Spaniard - who won the Champions League against AC Milan in 2005, and reached the final again two years later - should be given more respect for what he has achieved.

"It is always excessive," said Wenger, who himself came in for criticism last season and has not won a trophy since Arsenal's FA Cup triumph in 2005. "We are, with a big club, in a job where you know that the moment the team goes through a difficult period, you get more stick than you should.

"I feel sorry that he gets that because he does not deserve it. But we all basically understand within this job, that it is part of the rules."

"In a big club, you need to be extremely strong because you get a lot of negative vibes," Wenger said. "When you do not start well in the race for the Premier League, it's all negative around you.

"What is happening to Liverpool today happened to us last year. Every single question is negative for the whole season. You need to be extremely strong inside the club to deal with that."

Benitez's future at Anfield has been the subject of much debate and on Friday Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho told a news conference in Italy the chances of him leaving to join Liverpool were "impossible" following speculation that he was set to return to the Premier League.

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