Wenger: City Have Become The Contender

Arsene Wenger believes Manchester City can form a rivalry with Arsenal to match the one the Gunners already have with Manchester United. Roberto Mancini's side, who are second in the table and three points better off, having spent heavily on players last summer.

Asked whether City may be about to compete as fiercely as United have done, the manager said, "Of course. City now will be one of the contenders because they are not at the end of an investment cycle. It looks like they are at the start of it, so you have to consider them as one of the teams that will challenge."

Mancini's lavish investment last summer included David Silva (£30m) Mario Balotelli (£22.5m), James Milner (£26m) and Yaya Touré (£25m), and Wenger admitted the petro-billions of the owner, sheikh Mansour, have affected Arsenal. "At the start they were not at the same level football-wise but when they are at the same level football-wise, it will be easier for them to attract the players."

When Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in the summer of 2003, the Russian oligarch also spent heavily. Wenger was asked whether Manchester City are the new Chelsea. "I know what they paid for our players, that's it," he said. "You know as well as I know I am not interested to speak about Manchester City." City bought Emmanuel Adebayor for £25m and Kolo Touré for £14m, and Wenger seemed to hint that Arsenal had hiked their prices. When the question was posed, the Frenchman followed a long silence by saying "no" and then laughed.

Despite Mancini's ability to operate at the top of the transfer market, Wenger said he is not envious of the Italian, "I am happy where I am and I work in the way I work. I could do it [work with Mancini's level of finance] but he has his own problems and I have my problems."

Whereas City have a seemingly endless supply of money, Arsenal are the Premier League club with the firmest financial footing, as they have reduced the debt on the Emirates stadium and show a profit each year. What, then, is the best model, City's or Arsenal's? "It is a different way," Wenger said. "In our own way, we are also at the start of a cycle.That's what is good in football. Every club can work with his own rules. Sometimes it is an advantage for the players. You see, Wayne Rooney has signed a five-year contract. Certainly, the threat of City behind them made Manchester United respond as well. The players are the beneficiaries."

Adebayor scored against Arsenal at Eastlands in City's 4-2 win early last season, a goal he followed with a pitch-long sprint to memorably celebrate in front of the Gunners' fans. The centre-forward also scored a hat-trick in the Europa League, against Lech Poznan, yet with Mancini often favouring Carlos Tevez at the head of a 4-5-1, there is no guarantee Adebayor will face his former club. "He will be determined to play but he will not decide that," Wenger said. "What I can master is the team that I will play, and the way we focus and the way we play. We feel we have, of course, won again [twice in the past week] and we are very close to doing something special. There is a good spirit in the side, we have seen already at Chelsea that we are close to winning these big games and that is what we want to do."

Wenger said he and his players have never considered whether they should forgive Adebayor for the overzealous goal celebration. "We never spoke about that. I am sure we have forgotten that. We are all focused on putting in a good performance on Sunday. We have played so many games since that we don't even care about that now." Wenger expects Andrey Arshavin, 29, to stay beyond the end of his current contract, which has two years to run. "I think he has a long future at the club," he said.

Exclusively by Jamie Jacckson

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