Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s press conference: Nottingham Forest FA Cup team news, Granit Xhaka’s injury, George Weah and much more
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Arsene Wenger held his weekly press conference at London Colney on Friday morning. Read the full transcript of the topics he discussed, including the latest team news ahead of Nottingham Forest, new signing Konstantinos Mavropanos, whether he’s interested in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, VAR and George Weah.
Early team news ahead of Nottingham Forest
Before Chelsea nothing has changed. Kolasinac, Koscielny, Giroud, Ramsey, Monreal are still out. From Wednesday we will lose Granit Xhaka who finished with a tight groin – everyone else should be available.
Will Wenger will rotate his squad for the trip to the City Ground?
I will rotate a little bit. We come out of a high loaded period because we played three big games in six days, twice away, we have to keep our level of focus because the third round is always very difficult. Especially away from home against a Championship team. And we play on Wednesday again. I have to rotate a little bit.
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Wenger’s views on the FA Cup third round
This is perhaps the most difficult round. It’s always difficult to start well in the competition. When you play away to a Championship team it’s always very intense. The Championship teams are ready. For them it is a big challenge and you have to maintain coming out of a very loaded and congested period. You have to maintain your concentration and that’s never easy.
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Have you responded to the FA?
Yes, I have been asked. I maintain what I said in the press conference, 100 per cent. I have nothing to change on that. Nothing has changed. I have been in England 21 years, I try to serve this game with honestly and integrity. When I have something to say I say it. On that front nothing will change, never.
Do you stand by your comment that the penalty was farcical?
100 per cent.
Others have said it was a penalty
I respect everybody’s opinion. I think it was a yellow card for Hazard. 100 per cent. I have a right to have my opinion, I respect everyone’s opinion.
There are accusations Jack Wilshere dived as well
Yes. Maybe he did. But why should that change my opinion on the penalty? Every situation is different, that has to be assessed by the referee. After the you have your opionion and I have mine. I’m long enough in the game to know that everyone can have a different opinion.
So you still stand by what you said about these decisions being more than a coincidence?
I have nothing to add. I maintain what I said. We can talk and talk. At the end of the day we spend always time talking about things that are not important in the game. What we want to see are big football games, with big players on the pitch and you want them to be refereed by top quality people. And I think I contributed a lot to give referees a great opportunity to be at their best because I had a huge influence on the fact that they became professional or not. I believe I had more influence on that, a positive one, and that’s why I can be as well demanding. I want from [referees] to be at the top [of their game] and I am quite surprised that [idea] is shocking.
Will you contest the charge from the West Brom game?
I don’t know. At the moment I am focused on football. I am 21 years in the game – what I’ve seen and heard from people in the corridors, you can understand why I’m surprised and shocked at having been charged.
On VAR being used in the FA Cup and League Cup
I fight for video for over 10 years so I can only be positive. It can create jobs as well for former referees who can continue their work.
On new signing Konstantinos Mavropanos
He’s with us. The plan is he goes out on loan to play somewhere.
Will it be an English club, will he go abroad?
It can be a German club. He is 20 years old so for a central defender he is not ready to start with us, so it’s important he gets experience.
Is he interested in signing [Borussia Dortmund’s} Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
No, it’s not a possibility.
It’s like any new technology. It can be positive, I’m always in favour of moving forward. Even if it creates problems it can sort out many mistakes that have been made before. For example, when you see Swansea against Tottenham, the offside goal would have been detected. So it can get many mistakes out of the game, especially the offsides.
After it depends how we use it. If it is to keep complete control for the referee on the pitch to run to the television while the whole stadium sits there and freezes, I think it’s better we stay with the old season. So it can get better, but it can get as well worse.
So you have some concerns?
If it is applied like that, certainly. On whether ticket proves should be cut to guarantee full stadiums - as Vincent Kompany [who has just obtained an MBA] has said. I believe that the stadiums should be full, but they are. When you look at the Premier League last year I think it was 94 per cent capacity. So I believe you can’t put more people in the stands that they can take, so in that front there is no problem.
After that, should ticket prices be adjusted to the demands? We live in an economy where people make their decisions, we have to respect that. Ideally you want it always to be as less expensive as possible. Vincent Kompany is a football player, who is very well paid. To pay the players very eel you have to get some money. Still today the gates in our club has always been about 30/35 per cent of the turnover of the club. So that means one third of the salary of the player is paid by the income of the gates.
On the demands of the fixture list
I accept completely that when you are involved in many competitions you can be at a very high level. I believe the fixture list this season has been completely unfair - especially the Christmas period. Recovery days for some clubs have not been the same. Some teams have had six days prepare, others have had two - That is defendable.
I’m not against playing many games, I’m ready to play every two days as long as the other team does the same. We have to make a huge effort in the Premier League to get that much better respected.
Will the FA Cup this weekend because Premier League clubs have to rotate
A little bit yes, but look at the benches everywhere in the Premier League and everybody has top level international players on the bench so I won’t think the FA Cup should suffer from that. I don’t feel that if I rotate a bit it will be a less stronger team.
How influential was the way you won it last season in your decision to stay?
I don’t know. It’s difficult to win this trophy, so many teams want to win a trophy that it becomes more and more difficult. We won it in style in a period when we were questioned. Did it have an influence or not? I don’t know. I don’t know how I would have responded.
Would you have stayed had you not won it?
I don’t know.
Do you expect the FA charge to be dealt with before Sunday?
As well, I don’t know. I focus on football. Honestly that is the last of my worries. I know what I do, I know what I say. Apart from that when I come out of a press conference my only worry is football.
Have you requested a personal hearing?
On Theo Walcott - Will he stay?
I want him to stay.
I heard [that Southampton are interested]. Personally I want him to stay.
On George Weah becoming president of Liberia
Yes I have been invited by George to the day he will become president. What is important when you look at his life, it is a real film. It is unbelievable. It can make a fantastic film. I remember when I saw him the first time at Monaco, a bit lost, not knowing anybody and not being rated by anybody as a player.
To become in 1995 the best player in the world and today to become president of his country - It’s an unbelievable story.
It’s down to the fact that George is strong mentally, convinced that he has a mission and secondly, I went with George in the period when it was war in Liberia and I saw how much he suffered for his country. That’s the second thing that was always continuous in his life, the love for his country and for his people, the care he had for other people.
I didn’t think during that period that he would become president, but today when I look back I have seen him crying when war was in Liberia. It’s a happy story and I wish that he has a happy presidency. This guy is an example for everyone who plays football today.
Will you be going?
I don’t think so because I believe I will be busy. Maybe if I’m suspended I will have time to go...