Arsene Wenger: Arsenal strong again after 'very sensitive period'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger has taken charge of more than 1,000 matches as Arsenal manager

Arsene Wenger says Arsenal are in a strong position and ready to challenge their big-spending Premier League rivals for the world's top players.

The Arsenal manager told BBC Football Focus that Arsenal have come through a "sensitive period" of financing the construction of the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger said: "What people forget is you have to build a new stadium.

"Now we can compete for the best players and that was not the case five years ago."

Wenger, who has been Arsenal manager since 1996, has guided the Gunners to three Premier League titles and five FA Cup wins.

They went nine years without winning a trophy before lifting the FA Cup in 2014.

Wenger's Arsenal roll of honour
FA Premier League wins: 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04 (unbeaten)
FA Cup wins: 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014

That period saw Manchester United joined by Chelsea and Manchester City in dominating the race for Premier League title.

Wenger said he turned down job opportunities to instead oversee Arsenal's transition either side of their move from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006.

"I went with the club for the challenge of building a new stadium without dropping out of the Champions League and we made it every year," he added.

"I feel that I have done my job in a very committed and faithful way. In 20 years it will be acknowledged that was a very sensitive period for the club. Today the club is in a strong position.

Matin Keown interviews Arsene Wenger
Martin Keown spent eight years as a player at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger

"You want to win everything. We were not that far away but we were facing opposition with much more resources. We had to deal with it."

Arsenal play Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday night.

In a wide-ranging interview with Football Focus Wenger also discussed his FA Cup memories and other key aspects of his Arsenal reign.

Wenger on his favourite FA Cup memory

"Maybe the first one against Newcastle in 1998 when we won the double.

"When I was a kid I watched the cup final. So to come from a village in France and go on to win that was something special. It was the old stadium but the soul there was special."

Arsene Wenger celebrates at the 1998 FA Cup final
Goals from Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars in the final secured the 1998 FA Cup for Arsenal

On his medals

"I don't know where my medals are. I don't look back. Maybe one day I'll regret it but I'd like to get more of the human side out my career than medals.

"You can have an influence on people's lives. Medals are important but are not the only thing that matter."

On his rivalry with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson

"I'm happy to see him now much more than before because we have gone through difficult spells. In the end it became more peaceful.

"He was not always objective in his defending his team and neither was I. Now we can have a nice dinner or a glass of wine."

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson
Wenger and Ferguson locked horns in the league for 17 years prior to the latter's retirement

On the changes to his team after 2004

"The availability of the players changed. We produced players like Cesc Fabregas, who is less physical than Patrick Vieira, but who are still exceptional players.

"For a while maybe we became slowly a little bit less athletic and less physical. But the players we have today, believe me, are very physical."

On defeat to Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie

"I question myself after every game. It was just a shock as we were super favourites. I believe we wanted too much to make the difference in the first game and forgot the basics.

"We lost vision and panicked a little bit."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Wenger saw his side slip to a 3-1 defeat in the first leg against Monaco last month

On his future

"We don't know, that's why life is interesting. I will continue as always to give my best to the job I do and for this club.

"(I want to leave the club) in a strong healthy position which means a club with good players, with good youth behind and strong financial position to go further up and develop even more and I will do that, you can believe me.

"The guy who comes in after me will be in a very strong position to deliver something exceptional."

The full interview by Martin Keown is on Football Focus on BBC One on Saturday at 12.10 GMT.

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