Harry Redknapp has defended Arsene Wenger ahead of Wednesday’s north London derby but he claimed the Arsenal manager has become one of the “biggest nutters” in the Premier League.
Tottenham boss Redknapp blasted the Arsenal fans who have grown disillusioned with life under Wenger, insisting that the Frenchman has been put under pressure by the “sad” and “idiotic” supporters who call radio phone-ins to air their grievances about their team every week.
Wenger’s men looked set to challenge for three trophies as the season drew into the home straight but a poor run of form has seen them fall behind Manchester United in the title race and miss out again in the Carling Cup and the Champions League.
The Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham at Wembley in February was particularly hard to stomach for the Arsenal faithful, who were sure that their hunt for a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup would come to an end against Alex McLeish’s strugglers.
The influential Arsenal Supporters’ Trust released a statement last week expressing their “considerable disappointment” with the club’s continued struggle to land major honours, and warned that they would be putting Wenger’s policy of trusting young players rather than buying experienced ones under the spotlight at the end of the season. Redknapp, who will lock horns with Wenger in the derby, insists all the pressure on the 61-year-old is unjust despite his failure to land a trophy in so long.
“I don’t understand how they can criticise him. They have had fantastic success and play great football,” Redknapp said. “He managed a team that went a whole season unbeaten. What an achievement that was. That was amazing to do that. He has won enough trophies at Arsenal already. He doesn’t need another to have vindication, surely. His record stands up anyway.”
Redknapp mused last year that the man who was viewed as a calm professor when he arrived in England in 1996 from Grampus Eight had turned into a “big nutter” thanks to the pressure of playing in the Premier League. The Spurs boss believes all managers are now subject to unfair abuse and scrutiny from fans calling in to radio phone-ins after every match, with Wenger one of the many victims.
“I don’t understand the criticism (of Wenger) at all but that’s what you expect in football, you get that in this game now,” Redknapp said. “If he was angry about it then I don’t blame him. I would have been too.
“If you lose a few games some people call these silly phone-ins and say: ‘They were rubbish today. They were absolutely useless’ when they weren’t even at the game, they were listening to it on the radio or shopping with the wife. I don’t listen to them. I’ll turn the radio on and put Magic FM on instead. I want to listen to some music. I don’t want to listen to a bunch of idiots. They must have sad lives.”
Redknapp points to Wenger’s touchline spat with Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish as evidence that the former Monaco coach is under greater pressure than ever to deliver a trophy to the Emirates Stadium. He does acknowledge though that the skirmish with the Liverpool boss following Sunday’s 1-1 draw shows he is determined to bring home that elusive trophy.
“Suddenly when Arsenal started to lose he became one of the biggest nutters of all,” Redknapp added. “He is jumping around more than anyone now. That’s how (the pressure) gets to you. We all do it. It’s wanting to win.”
The Spurs boss will pile further pressure on Wenger if he manages to guide his team to their first league double over their bitter rivals in 18 years. Redknapp believes the Gunners must win all their remaining games to have any chance of winning their 14th league title, but admits that he and his side face an equally tough task in claiming fourth spot off Manchester City.
“We need a win desperately,” he said. “Arsenal have to win all of their games now and we will need most of our games to make the top four.”