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FA Cup quarterfinal draw

FA Cup

Wenger slams Arsenal critics

Arsene Wenger has rejected criticism of his team-building and youth policies at Arsenal, claiming he "cannot understand" that fans would be unhappy with the club's situation.

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Arsenal appear to be headed for another promising yet ultimately unsuccessful season in terms of silverware and Wenger is facing increasing criticism for failing to return his team the trophy-winning level it was at in the first half of last decade.

Wenger has challenged his critics' notion of "success", claiming that coming second in the Premier League is far from a "disaster", while explaining that playing in the Champions League every season while building a youthful team due to restricted spending from the club's move to Emirates Stadium is a considerable achievement.

Wenger also justified his policies by pointing to the fact that big-spending rivals Chelsea and Manchester City were currently behind Arsenal in the Premier League. He launched a thinly veiled attack on Chelsea's £50 million purchase of Fernando Torres and said that bringing through young players is the "right" way to run a club.

But having narrowly lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham and fallen short in the FA Cup and Champions League, Arsenal need to stage a major fightback in the league to have something tangible to show for their season and some dissenting voices are losing patience with the manager's project. The Arsenal Supporters' Trust have expressed their "considerable disappointment'' at recent results as they face a sixth barren season.

But Wenger said: "We have done well for our age as we are second in the league. Is that a disaster for you? There are teams who invest ten times more than us, one player cost more than the whole team and they are behind us. I don't understand the way people think. We should not go overboard. We are second in the league so it's not a scandal. Where is the common sense?"

Wenger added: "Some of the clubs behind us have done nothing for 20 years, yet suddenly they get a lot of praise. I don't understand. We have eight games to go and are in a position to fight for the championship, so let's give the maximum. If we are disappointed at the end then okay. Why do you say it's a disaster when we are second in the league? Do the 18 clubs behind us have a fantastic disaster?

"If I cannot defend the fact that we are second in the league and fighting for the championship then I should stay at home, but I am in a fighting job.''

Wenger maintains success can be measured other than just by silverware in the cabinet.

"To be consistent at the top level is the most difficult and important thing in our job,'' he said. "We have been in the Champions League for 15 years, and there are only two clubs who have done that in this country - it is us and Manchester United.''

Wenger added: "Trophies are one way to judge a club. They're not overrated as it allows you to say you have won a trophy, but would you swap winning the FA Cup for playing in the Champions League? Is it a trophy or not to be in the Champions League? Is it more important to win the FA Cup?

"We do as well as we can, and if it's not good enough it's not good enough, but what I deny is that everything is suddenly negative. We have built this club. Look at the players in this team, I will speak to you in ten years.''

Wenger has been criticised for not spending big on established names, preferring instead to bring through and mould talented youngsters like captain Cesc Fabregas and England midfielder Jack Wilshere. The Gunners boss, however, insisted it was a worthwhile ethos.

"We have had a change in policy to sign younger players,'' said Wenger, in reference to the club's switch from Highbury to their new £300 million home at Ashburton Grove. "It is important for football that there's another way then to just come in, put money on the table and buy a star. I feel it's very important for football. The way we are doing things is right.

"If I look at this team I'm proud of them, proud of the attitude of the players and the football we play. It's only in this country that we have to face what we face. If you go anywhere else in the world Arsenal are given much more credit, I can tell you.''


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