Champions League

Wenger motivated as ever despite critics

Arsene Wenger (TEAMtalk)
Arsene Wenger (TEAMtalk)

Barcelona - Under-fire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has insisted he remains as motivated as ever despite strong calls for his 20-year reign to come to an end of the campaign if he fails to deliver a trophy.

Arsenal travel to European champions Barcelona on Wednesday with the daunting task of trying to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit.

A run of one win in seven games has severely dented the Gunner's hopes of landing a first Premier League title in 12 years, whilst their bid to win a third consecutive FA Cup was ended by a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Watford on Sunday.

"If you compare the club with how I arrived and today, we have moved forward without any money from anyone," Wenger said on Tuesday in defence of his record.

"I'm more motivated than first day I arrived. I feel pressure and responsibility to keep on moving forward.

"If you're there a long time you get questioned about your dedication, but my dedication is 100 percent, even more than when I arrived."

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique also defended Wenger's record and said it would be impossible for a coach to remain at the Camp Nou for 20 years.

"I don't think anyone has ever been here (as coach) 20 years, or, if they have, it is impossible in the modern era," said Enrique.

"It means the level of Arsene Wenger as a manager cannot be doubted. Only the best can be in the one place for so long due to their level and also because they have the desire to continue. In my case, I think it is impossible."

By contrast to Barca's Champions League form in the past decade as they go in search of a ninth consecutive quarter-final, Arsenal haven't made it to the last eight since being eliminated by a Lionel Messi four-goal masterclass in 2010.

Yet, Wenger's men have made a habit of forlorn second-leg comebacks in the last-16 in recent seasons against the likes of AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Monaco.

And the Frenchman insists Arsenal won't be afraid to attack Barca despite being caught out by the lethal front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar on the counter-attack for the crucial first goal at the Emirates three weeks ago.

"The advantage of our position is we have to attack and that's what we like," added Wenger.

"We know that the magicians of Barcelona will demand a big performance from us defensively.

"I dont think we have to think too much or calculate, we have to score three goals so that demands a clear charge, we have to attack and take the game to them."

Barca are on a club record 37-game unbeaten run stretching back to October, but Enrique insists his side won't let complacency affect their concentration.

"It is a very good result, but it is not going to change our preparation," he added.

"We are aware of the need to play a great game to get to the next round.

"Without doubt Arsenal as a club and the individuals within the team are capable of coming back.

"It is not a game to relax. It is a result that if you concede first then certain doubts can arise."

Arsenal are boosted by the return of French international Laurent Koscielny in defence.

Meanwhile, Barca will be without the suspended Gerard Pique with Jeremy Mathieu expected to deputise.

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