ARSENE WENGER has launched a stunning defence of his Arsenal record, claiming qualifying for the Champions League is like winning a trophy.
The Gunners have been without silverware since 2005 but are in Europe’s top competition for the 15th consecutive year.
But speaking at the club’s annunal general meeting today, the Arsenal boss said: “For me, there are five ’trophies’.
“The first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask ‘did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you ’do you play in the Champions League?’.”
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were all heckled at the AGM over the club’s financial strategy.
Wenger, though, received a warm reception after his address, which had opened with an apology for the back-to-back defeats against Norwich and Schalke. He said: “If everybody is absolutely devastated when we finish third in the league, I promise you I will not be here if you finish 15th one day.
“We did not produce a good performance last night, but let’s not forget it was a first home defeat in the Champions League for 43 games — not many teams do that.
“It is always difficult after a defeat to take a distance with the result and look at the bigger picture.
“This team started in a very dynamic and promising way. We hit the wall in the last two games, which was a bit inexplicable, but the attitude and focus of the team every day is fantastic.
“I believe this team can deliver and I am optimistic we will have a good season and the players will show I am right.”
Wenger, 63, also defended the club’s financial policy — but stressed that for him, it was always about the football.
The Frenchman said: “My job is to deliver a team with the resources we have, and I have never complained about that.
“I want a club to pay players from its own resources, there is no shame in that.”
Wenger ended his address with a call for unity.
He added: “We want first to win the Premier League, that is what we are here for and that is what we want to fight for.
“Believe me we will give absolutely every drop of energy to achieve that and will do that again this year.
“It is still important that we keep our strength and stay united for the good of Arsenal, sometimes you can forget that.”
Gazidis had earlier said that Arsenal would be able to compete with the world’s biggest and best clubs as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations become more rigorously enforced.