at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes has urged Arsenal supporters to stop criticising Arsene Wenger because the Gunners boss can no longer compete financially with English football's big spenders.
Wenger has been under increasing pressure this season and heads into Tuesday's Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern desperately needing to win the competition after an eight-year trophy drought.
The Frenchman was already feeling the heat following Arsenal's embarrassing League Cup exit to Bradford in December and the criticism went up a notch following their shock FA Cup defeat to second-tier Blackburn on Saturday.
With their Premier League title aspirations long gone, some sections of the Gunners' support have called on Wenger to resign.
But Heynckes believes his opposite number should not shoulder the blame while the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City out-spend Arsenal every year.
“Arsenal are a great team and Arsene Wenger is a very good coach. You can see his team has a very great dynamic about it,” Heynckes said at a pre-match press conference on Monday.
“You have to take into consideration Arsenal are competing with Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
“Over the years Arsenal have been selling their best players while these other teams get in top world stars. So I don't think it is fair to blame Arsene Wenger for that.
“Take away the recent game against Blackburn, they are fifth in the league and they have played a lot of positive football in the Champions League.”
Following the Cup defeat to Blackburn, Wenger will recall several of his first-team players, with England midfielder Jack Wilshere among those who will be a key figure against Munich.
Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger says Wilshere has caught his eye after producing fine form for club and country on his return from a long spell out with injury.
“It has a lot to do with his size. The typical English player is over 1.85m,” Schweinsteiger said.
“He was out for a long time, but he is very difficult to play against.
“Wilshere is very dynamic. He has a very good left foot and he has a real eye for the way he sees his players. Those are his qualities.”
Bayern, who will be replacing Heynckes with former Barcelona
coach Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, arrive in north London as Europe's form team.
They are 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, have won their first five games back after the resumption from the winter break and have conceded just seven league goals all season.
There is also added motivation to right the wrong of last season's Champions League final penalty shootout defeat on home soil against Chelsea.
Despite Bayern being red-hot favourites to progress, Schweinsteiger, 28, is refusing to write off Arsenal's chances.
“A defeat like that, you just can't forget it,” he added. “Of course if you lose a final then the motivation is there. We have shown in the league, the cup and the Champions League that we have the motivation.
“Arsenal is one of the top-10 teams in Europe. Of course the days of Tony Adams and Thierry Henry have gone and maybe they are pining for them. But they still have Wilshere.
“They are not the typical English team. They are very technical. I don't know why they have not won trophies because they the quality to win.” – Sapa-AFP