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Saturday, December 10, 2011

André Villas-Boas must get senior Chelsea players on side, says Wenger

Arsène Wenger has said that André Villas-Boas's mission to instil a new philosophy at Chelsea hinges on his senior players buying into the manager's vision.

Asked how difficult it will be for Villas-Boas to persuade John Terry and his team-mates to accept the Portuguese's vision, Wenger said: "It is not easy, no. But in our job you can only survive if you do how you feel. After, you can get it through or not. That is what I did. So for me it was not too difficult. I was just convinced of what I wanted and I was fortunate to face intelligent players: I had Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown – they are all intelligent people. And they thought: 'Maybe this guy is completely mad but we will try and it can work – you never know.'"

As at any successful club Chelsea's previous managers have understood the importance of ensuring Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and company are on board. Wenger said the key to a transformation in philosophy is to get the senior players on board: "It is hard. But I believe as well a manager, when he has strong players in the squad and they share what he thinks, it makes him stronger. If they go against, it is difficult."

When Wenger took over Arsenal in September 1996 he transformed the club's playing style and revolutionised diet and conditioning. Villas-Boas is attempting to make Chelsea more fluid and attractive and Wenger said of the Portuguese and the challenge facing him: "I have big sympathy for him. I like him personally. I think he is intelligent, competent. He is like any manager would be – like I was at the start of the season – of course under scrutiny because results are not completely there. There again, you can only think that he'll get it right. As a manager he is at the start of his career and he is at a big club."

Wenger's changes had included asking a squad headed by Tony Adams to eat boiled chicken and imbibe isotonic drinks, while they also had to accept a new training regime based around isometric exercises and adapt to a slicker playing style.

Wenger added that Villas-Boas requires time as the Frenchman did when he first walked into Arsenal. "It's down basically to the club to make the right decision," he said. "There are two things that are very important inside the football club. That's to take a distance with the storm that you are facing and analyse: is the guy competent, strong and capable to turn things around or not. That's not down to the manager that's down to the people who decide at the club. That's where the big clubs make a difference with the smaller clubs. The smaller clubs – if they just give in [a manager can lose his job] but that's where the strong clubs [can be strong]. I feel fortunate to be in a club where they can resist pressure."

Wenger also appeared to rule out recruiting any players during next month's transfer window. "At the moment I do nothing in January," he said. "I have a big squad but, if you knock at my door and say, 'I have a fantastic player for you,' I will not turn it down."

Arsenal visit Wigan Athletic on Saturday having drawn and lost there in the previous two seasons. He added: "They came back twice in games where they showed spirit and quality. Their pitch has always been quite difficult in winter but let's hope this time it will be all right. They play good football so it's always a difficult game for us. This year we have no choice – we want to win to take the three points tomorrow." Abou Diaby is out for around 10 days due to a muscular injury.

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