'Winning the league unbeaten was special'

Criticism against Wenger unfair: Pires

'Winning the league unbeaten was special'

The long mane has been replaced by a short crop. The clean shave has made way for salt and pepper stubble. But one thing that will remain permanent is the legacy of Robert Pires.

A World Cup winner with France in 2006, Pires made name during his six-year stay at Arsenal where he won three FA Cups and two Premier League titles.

The crowning jewel in the silken winger’s armoury was being an integral part of ‘The Invincibles’ team that won the league title in 2003-04 unbeaten. In the City this weekend on promotional duties, the 43-year-old spoke about the club’s long-serving manager and the Invicibles. Excerpts. 

You’ve known Arsene Wenger for such a long time now. Despite so much criticism, he has refused to quit. How strong a character is he?

I think Wenger is a great manager, even now. I don’t know why people criticise Wenger so much, maybe it’s the new generation of Arsenal fans. He’s very strong mentally. During my playing time, his first objective was to win the title, especially the Premier League because he knew it was very tough. He hasn’t changed that much -- he is the same manager, same football and same philosophy. He has spent a lot of money on players, like Alexandre Lacazette and still people criticise. Unfortunately this is football.

You played with some of the greatest Arsenal players but you created a cult for yourself. Your thoughts.

When you talk about the Invincibles team, I’m very proud to be part of the team. I used to play with great players, like you said Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljunberg. We played as a team and not as individuals. We had the same objective for the team and self. We always wanted to lift the trophy. It’s very important to win the Premier League but if you win it unbeaten, it’s amazing.

In the current squad, who’s the Wenger-type player?

Everyone knows Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud but Alex Iwobi is the most Wenger-type player. He’s got a very good future. For him it’s very important to stay at Arsenal.

Henry has mentioned that during the Invincibles season, you’ll won the game mentally even before it started. Your thoughts...

We took the season just game by game. If you are playing a game on Saturday, you can’t think about the game next week. You need to be focussed and committed. Of course, spirit is very important, especially in UK because believe me Premier League is very tough. It’s not only Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur. Sometimes even the worst teams can trouble you the most. Games against Leeds United, Bolton Wanderers or Blackburn Rovers were not easy. To win the title, you need to win those games.

What’s your favourite goal as Arsenal player?

Every game against Tottenham Hotspur is special for an Arsenal player. I think I’ve played 12 games against them and scored 8 goals. I guess I’m very lucky. All the games I played against Tottenham were played with very good spirit and intensity. The atmosphere and Highbury and White Hart Lane was amazing. The special goal would be one I scored at White Hart Lane when we won the title.

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