Arsène Wenger is adamant that he remains the manager to "take Arsenal forward" and has again insisted that the club is close to rivalling the best in England and Europe.
Wenger has come under more fire this week than perhaps at any other time since taking charge of Arsenal in 1996, as FA Cup elimination by Blackburn Rovers and a 3-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League left the club facing an eighth consecutive season without a trophy.
The strain on Wenger seemed evident even before the Bayern match, as the normally sanguine Frenchman appeared irascible and unreasonable in a press conference on Monday. However, speaking to the press again on Friday, he joked that "I have calmed down" and when asked whether this week's criticism and disappointments had led him to contemplate stepping down, he replied: "No, never for a second."
"I feel we live in a world of emotion, of excess, and it is down to people who have responsibilities to put that into perspective and keep solid and keep guiding the club in the right way," he said. "What is important for me is to focus on the next game and try to give my best, like all the players."
Arsenal's next game is against Aston Villa in the Premier League and failure to win would risk compounding a galling campaign, increasing the possibility of the club, which is currently fifth in the table, missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time under Wenger. That is a prospect the Frenchman cannot countenance: "Financially we can live with it [not qualifying] but on the sporting front, no. And the sporting front is the priority."
The current woes come at a time when Arsenal were supposed to be starting to thrive anew. The club is emerging from years of relative austerity caused by the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 and Wenger believes Arsenal now have the financial wherewithal to compete with most clubs in Europe. The manager said the club will do just that, rejecting the notion that he has become so used to belt-tightening that he is reluctant to cut loose in the transfer market. He declared that Arsenal are prepared to spend big in the summer, though threw in the customary caveats.
"If we find tomorrow a player of top, top, top quality, we will take him," he said. "We went out to spend money at Christmas but we didn't find the players. I'm not reluctant to do so. [But] first of all, we only had money recently. Secondly, in England there is a way of thinking that every problem is sorted out just by spending money, but that's not always the case. If it was like that, the same teams would win the Champions League every year.
"I believe that the problem today is not the money, it's to find the talent that strengthens your team. And, as well, I believe we have to be faithful to what this club is about, which is to give a chance to the young players we educate. That is vital and therefore to bring in the players only who give us really a plus."
Arsenal looked largely outclassed by Bayern but Wenger maintains that his club are close to matching the cream of Europe: "We are not so far as people think at the moment from Bayern. We need to be intelligent and strong in this period. We have to keep a guideline of what we have done until now. Strengthen the team where in the positions we feel where we are a bit weaker. But we have a basis of a team that is very strong for me .
"I believe in some areas of our team we can compete with anybody in the world as we are. Analyse all the European and English teams and in some areas of our team we are very competitive. We speak about the [Jack] Wilsheres, the [Santi] Cazorlas and we have a very strong technical basis, but we have to be more efficient."