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May 13, 2011

Wenger hopes for improvements

Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal's shortcomings this season can be solved both on the training pitch and in the transfer market.

The Gunners host Aston Villa on Sunday looking to stay ahead of FA Cup finalists Manchester City in third and secure automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

However, Wenger knows the campaign should be drawing to a close without another sense of frustration after six trophyless years. The Gunners boss accepts his young squad need a bit of help to "get over the line'' in 2011-12, having seen the season quickly unravel after suffering a shock defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final. Wenger, though, is confident major surgery is not needed, more perhaps a change in focus.

"The players had a fantastic attitude for the whole season and I am frustrated because they have not been rewarded,'' said the Arsenal manager. "The players have produced every single effort they could on the pitch, but maybe we were a bit to nervous when we had to cross the line.

"In the final minutes of big games, we lost and it was not down to the fact the players did not want it, they want to do well and have been remarkable, but we lacked a bit of calm in some situations. Experience will help with that and also the transfer market will help as well.''

Wenger maintains there have been positives from a "frustrating'' season. "We do not feel that we under-performed overall because we were in the Carling Cup final, the quarter-final of the FA Cup against Manchester United, where we lost three days after [going out to] Barcelona [in the Champions League], so we produced quality games and at the end of the day there are objective signs for us that show we have the quality,'' he said.

"We feel we have made up some of the gap between us and the top teams from the seasons before - we are top of the league in the top four of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, so we have every reason to be frustrated.''

Despite United having all but wrapped up the title with victory over Chelsea last weekend, Wenger maintains there is still all to play for behind the champions elect. Arsenal are two points ahead of City and three behind Chelsea with two games left.

"We can still catch the second place and we can finish second, third or fourth, depending on our results,'' he said. "Of course we want to finish in the top three and if possible second. It is not unrealistic [to finish second] when you are just three points behind. Manchester City can want third place because they are only two points behind, so it is open.''

Wenger is expected to add some experienced cover over the summer, most notably in defence. However, the Arsenal manager will not be drawn on potential targets.

"We are looking to strengthen every year. First we look not to weaken because we want to keep all our players, and then try to strengthen,'' he added. "It is not the number, it is the quality. But we don't rule out any position and we don't target any special position before the transfer market.''

Meanwhile, Wenger admitted his surpise at the news that Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association following his comments towards referee Howard Webb.

Wenger quipped: "They are not used to him being complimentary. It was a shock to the FA! It doesn't sound very serious. It doesn't look a major problem to say somebody is good. I wouldn't charge him for that."

Wenger does, however, disagree with managers who speak about referees prior to kick-off, and the Arsenal coach suggested his own system to avoid the problem in future.

He remarked: "Before a game I don't like comments about a referee, you will never hear me saying anything about a referee before the game. After, I can understand that a manager should have freedom to express his frustrations sometimes.

"I personally believe we should not know the name of the referee before the game. It should be drawn 48 hours before the game, and therefore nobody should know the name of the referee. That would keep anybody out of problems before the game.

"England is not a massive country. If referees are known to have a liking for a certain club, keep them out of the draw [for the team in question]. But I believe this is the best way to take suspicion away. Same for Europe, because you've had problems before with Barcelona and Real Madrid, once nominations of the referee has taken place."

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