Wenger: Spirit better than ever
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Arsene Wenger has launched a robust defence of the team spirit at Arsenal.Arsene Wenger has launched a robust defence of the team spirit at Arsenal following comments from marginalised goalkeeper Graham Stack.
The youngster, currently on loan at Reading with a view to a permanent move, insisted on Monday that in conversations with Ashley Cole the England left-back had revealed growing cracks within The Gunners' squad.
"I speak to Ashley now on the phone and he says it's very quiet, not as much fun as it used to be," Stack told The Times.
"The cliques aren't rumours, it's a fact. The French boys sit together, the Germans and Freddie Ljungberg eat together."
However Wenger has since moved to dismiss such suggestions, and described Stack's comments as 'unfair and unjustified'.
The young shot stopper has spent loan spells at Millwall and Reading in recent seasons and Wenger disregarded his opinion whilst stating he felt the multi-national spirit at Highbury was stronger than ever.
"I think it's a very unfair and unjustified comment by someone who hasn't been part of the first team squad at Arsenal for 24 months," said Wenger.
"He's not one of my players, he's left the club. I don't give any credit to these comments.
"I don't know what people understand by cliques, but if cliques are people who sit together at the same table then we have had cliques at Arsenal for nine years.
"You would find that at every other club as well. You would find it at Chelsea. But I think the spirit in this squad is as strong, if not stronger, as it's been than in any other season.
"I feel you can come from different countries and share the same values, but come from the same country and not share the same values.
"At Arsenal, we all share the same values."
The Gunners have suffered on the injury front with Sol Campbell, Alexander Hleb, Robin van Persie, Freddie Ljungberg and Gilberto all suffering in recent weeks, but their situation was given a timely boost by Thierry Henry's recall to the squad to face Sparta Prague on Tuesday night.
The French superstar has been rushed back to action after a groin injury and Wenger says he will countenance using his captain in the UEFA Champions League clash.
"He is physically fit and he's worked hard but he would maybe be a bit rusty in decision-making in the game.
"Ideally, I would play him for half an hour and then start him against Manchester City. If I'm in a position where I can afford to give him a run, then I will do it."
Wenger also insisted that Arsenal have not given up on winning the Premiership despite already falling 14 points behind Chelsea.
"We can't give up on the championship. We want to come back as strongly as possible and we have our pride. We have always finished in the top two and we want to keep that going.
"We don't say goodbye to the title as we will fight until the last second that we have a mathematical chance, although I have to accept we are far from Chelsea."
When drawn on whether he would seek winter reinforcements to aid the bid to catch The Blues, Wenger revealed that he could be tempted into signing a world class player should the opportunity arise - although he was happy with his current squad.
"It depends what is on the market. We don't need to buy for numbers in our squad.
"But if a player of super quality comes up, then yes. If not, then no."