Arsene Wenger celebrated his 60th birthday this week but the Arsenal manager’s desire to end the club’s four-year wait for a trophy shows no sign of abating.
Wenger is increasingly confident his current side is maturing into genuine title contenders and his players will get the opportunity to justify their manager’s growing confidence by recording a fifth successive league victory at West Ham on Sunday.
Since suffering the shock of back to back away defeats at Manchester United and Manchester City, Wenger’s team have recovered well, although AZ Alkmaar’s stoppage time equaliser this week served as a reminder that Arsenal can be guilty of failing to finish teams off.
That is certainly an issue Wenger will have addressed in the wake of that Champions League group game and the manager admitted his hunger for success is as strong as it ever was.
“Am I happy with all that I have achieved? Certainly not,” he said. “I expect always more and you can never be completely happy with what you do. The only credit that I give to myself is that I have worked very hard my whole career and always try to improve.
“I am very lucky to still be in charge today. If I look at all my friends who started with me, I was very, very young when I started.
“I was in charge at 33 and to survive at that age is not easy. You could see with many young managers, it?s difficult when you start with such a big responsibility. Overall I was very lucky. But always think you could have achieved more and make better decisions.”
On paper West Ham should provide only limited opposition to an in-form Arsenal, with Gianfranco Zola?s side rooted second bottom with just one league victory to their name this season.
Yet the intensity of a London derby will undoubtedly lift the Hammers and defender Matthew Upson with be particularly keen to impress and provide Wenger with another reminder of why the manager was wrong to let him leave for Birmingham six years ago.
Wenger admits he reluctantly sanctioned the transfer and revealed he has contemplated re-signing the England international on a number of occasions.
“I didn’t stop him (going) because I knew he had qualities to play in the Premier League but he had players in front of him,” Wenger said.
“I knew he would make it. He had Premier League quality and had the potential to be international quality.
“He is there now because he is at the right age for a central defender and for a few years now he has not been stopped by injuries which was his problem for a while.”
Upson is likely to face an Arsenal attacked boosted by the return of Eduardo, although Tomas Rosicky will not feature after suffering a problem with his knee this week.
Zola acknowledges his side’s position is causing him concern.
The Hammers manager has maintained his team has deserved greater reward for its performances this season but putting points on the board is now the main priority.
“It’s very difficult at the moment because I care about the players and club. It hurts me,” said the Italian.
“But I am a warrior – I don’t look like it but I am one and I don’t like to let myself down in my work.
“I am someone who never gives up and my determination to succeed is stronger than anything. Of course this job gives me awake at night. You are always thinking about things and trying to find answers.
“Everyone has problems – that is what life is about. But one thing I want from the players is to look for the solutions, rather than worry.”
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