LONDON COLNEY (England): Arsenal’s Champions League exit will not lead to an exodus of key players to bigger clubs, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.
Wenger told reporters at the club’s training ground that he fully expected skipper Patrick Vieira to sign a new contract in the close season.
Dismissing speculation in Friday’s London Evening Standard of a move by Real Madrid for Vieira and fellow French midfielder Robert Pires, he said: “There are two things.
“There is fantasy, which is happening in some newspapers, and there is the real world, which is happening inside the club. I can never stop people saying what they want.
“But I think this group is really united and wants to stay together. I’m not scared at all that the team will explode.”
Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat in Valencia in their final second-phase Champions League group game proved fatal to Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, let alone winning club football’s biggest prize for the first time.
Wenger said he would learn from his mistakes in Europe this term, but remained optimistic about the next campaign.
“If I didn’t do that, I’d really be a fool and I wouldn't be in the job anymore. Like every ambitious person, I’m not stupid enough to think that when things don’t happen you don’t have to improve,” he said.
“The only thing that keeps me going is believing that next season will be better than this season.”
He said Arsenal’s Champions League failure was the result of conceding stupid goals, the lack of a killer instinct and a demanding FA Cup run.
Analysing where his champions went wrong, Wenger could only heap some of the blame on a side who were held to home draws by Valencia, Ajax Amsterdam and an AS Roma side down to 10 men for nearly 70 minutes.
“If you sum it up as simply as possible, we’ve taken four points away from home, which is quite fair,” said Wenger.
But he added: “We have taken three points at home and we couldn’t win against teams that we over-dominated.
“It was partly our fault because we were twice in front and couldn’t kill the game off and conceded stupid goals. And partly it was bad luck to have played big teams in the FA Cup just three days before.
“We played at Manchester United (Feb 15), then we played at home against Ajax (Feb 18). We played against Chelsea (March 8), then we played on Tuesday night against Roma (March 11).
“Every time, we lost that little bit of spark that could kill the game off,” the Frenchman said.
Putting a brave face on the setback, Wenger said Arsenal would not be the only team to be disappointed before the Champions League final at Old Trafford on May 28.
Asked about his feelings over Friday's draw, Wenger said: “Of the eight that are in there, seven will be bitterly disappointed because only one can win it.” – Reuters