Arsene Wenger admits he is a prisoner of his own policy in giving youth its head at Arsenal.
But is adamant he is guiding Arsenal in the right direction
Arsene Wenger admits he is a prisoner of his own policy in giving youth its head at Arsenal and eschewing big-name signings, but insists he has no regrets about not buying Gareth Barry or Xabi Alonso in the summer.
Eyebrows were raised in the close-season when Wenger elected against pursuing midfield reinforcements, despite losing key personnel in the shape of Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb to AC Milan and Barcelona respectively.
A serious injury to Tomas Rosicky further shortened Arsenal's options in midfield but Wenger stuck true to his philosophy of fielding the young talent to which he retains such faith.
His plans looked foolhardy when Arsenal made a miserable start to the season but a strong second half to the campaign has seen the club strengthen their grip on fourth spot and reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, with a second leg against Villarreal at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Wenger believes that to make a big-money signing in the summer, at the expense of blooding his emerging crop of starlets, would have gone against all his principles.
"I remained faithful to my policy when everyone told me I was heading straight for a brick wall. People reproach me for not having bought Gareth Barry or Xavi Alonso," he said in the News of the World
"And we lost Hleb, Flamini and Rosicky. There was a midfield for me to rebuild. Should I have anticipated Flamini's departure? I couldn't because I really didn't think he was going to leave.
"I think I have been tough because I have continued to believe in this team when nobody else did.
"But I am a prisoner of my own policy. Buying Barry or Alonso is killing Alexandre Song, Abou Diaby and Denilson.
"We have been able to integrate them. Previously, if I had taken off Fabregas to play Song, people would have said: 'He's mad!' Somewhere along the line, these injuries have been a bad thing for a good thing.
"We believe in our qualities and our strengths. I believe this team has mentally grown this season. We were under a lot of negative pressure but we always came out and just kept going."
Wenger concedes that a summer of uncertainty with regards key players such as Emmanuel Adebayor - who was courted by Milan and Barcelona - when added to a slow start to the season, made him question the direction he was taking the club.
Wenger added: "The Adebayor business: 'I'm going, I'm staying, I'm going, I'm staying' was also an important factor. One thing followed another. Earlier this season, our game wasn't there. Even the people who love Arsenal were saying: 'This is a disaster'.
"You wonder why, with the same players, our game could crumble so much. The staff and I wondered whether we had made mistakes, if the training was being done badly.
"The most worrying match was our 3-0 defeat at Manchester City in November. That was one loss too many. We hit the bottom. But, just after that, we won 2-1 at Chelsea and I thought my team were not ready to totally go under.
"The barometer is confidence and when that seizes up . . . now we are unbeaten for 18 Premier League matches and that leaves with me with a lot of regrets."