In Depth

Arsenal criticism uninformed and misleading, says Wenger

Many players-turned-pundits just want to talk about their life story and do not back up their opinions, claims Gunners boss

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has hit back at what he believes are the uninformed opinions of football pundits, which he says put pressure on players and mislead fans, after he was accused of being "arrogant" by Gary Neville following the Gunners' goalless draw against Liverpool on Monday night.

The former Manchester United defender attacked Wenger for failing to bolster his midfield in the summer, and described him as "either naive or arrogant" for trying to win the title with flair players and refusing to adapt his team according to the opposition.

Neville was not alone in views, and after Monday's game radio phone-ins were awash with the usual array of frustrated Gunners calling for Wenger to splash out on big signings.

The Arsenal boss appeared annoyed by Neville's comments when they were relayed to him soon after the game, and, "having clearly thought the issue through this week, responded in much more detail to what he regards as a flawed criticism", says Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph.

Wenger insisted he was not talking specifically about Neville, but at any former players who now work as analysts.

"I accept critics," he said. "I have shown you over 20 years that I can absorb a lot, but I want people to educate and get people to love the game. When I watch sometimes, the guy doesn't talk about the game – he tells you his life and what he thinks about football."

The Arsenal manager said that opinions needed to be backed up with facts. "The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, it is documented and worked out before – especially when it is football specialists."

He used criticism of his side's defence as a case in point. "Since January, we have conceded less goals than anybody else. I don't know what people see. [Francis] Coquelin has the best defensive statistics and numbers in Europe."

Wenger's in-depth response proves that he was "stung" by the criticism on Monday, says Football 365.

But has he picked the wrong time to bite back? "The irony is that Neville and [Sky colleague Jamie] Carragher are among those pundits most credited with helping to educate football fans with their largely evidence-based observations," notes the Telegraph, which says that "Neville and Carragher invariably sought statistics or video footage to support any observation".

But addressing the specifics of the issue, Wenger explained that sides are playing deeper than before against Arsenal, and poweful central midfielders are not the answer. "We have to play quicker, be more incisive, combine quicker in the final third," he said.

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