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First Team News

Simon Grayson On ‘Exceptional’ Wenger

5 January 2017

Manager Simon Grayson was still playing when the Arsenal manager took up the hot seat at the Gunners.

The North End boss spoke about his opposite number in the dug out of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup third round tie in his busy pre-match press briefing and said that the Frenchman had been a huge influence on football in England since his arrival.

“I was still playing when Arsene first became Arsenal manager and played against his teams,” said the gaffer. “He has been very good for English football. He has brought a lot of ideas over; the way they play and some of the criticism he has had at times is unfair.

“What he has done for football in this country has been exceptional.

“If we cause an upset it would be a massive achievement. It would be up there with some of the results we have had and it would be fantastic for everybody.

“There is a lot we have to do to achieve that; we know we don’t just have to turn up to win, but we know we have a chance, because we have some good players, an enthusiasm about us, a desire about us and ultimately we will look to try and capitalise on any weaknesses they have got and nullify the major threats that they have got.”

So how will the North End chief look to prepare his time to try and achieve that upset? “Our build up will be like a normal game,” he continued. “Our training schedule will be as if we are playing any other Championship game. Our work won’t differ. We will do a little bit of work on Arsenal – not too much given we don’t know what sort of team they are going to play and then our last session will be the same we do before every week.

“The only difference will be the profile of the game, the opposition and it being a later kick-off!

“I haven’t got a clue what sort of team they will go with! They have had a lot of games in a short space of time, like all of us, and at the top end of the tree they mention it a little bit more.

“I think it will be a fine balance for Arsene Wenger of what team he needs to pick. He will be desperate to go through, but he will also not be wanting to run the risk of key players picking up the main thing that matters, which is the Premier League.”

One extra fillip for Simon and his squad will be the vocal sell out Deepdale faithful, something he believes can play a big part.

“The crowd will be good, but the players that Arsenal will have out on Saturday night will have played in far bigger crowds than at Deepdale in intimidating atmospheres and got results, but we have to use it to motivate our players even more.

“If it helps them suck the ball in the net or keeps the players running round until the 95th minute or whatever is needed to win the game, then so be it. It will be a great occasion for the supporters, because it hasn’t been too often that they have got to see true World class players.

“We had it a couple of years ago against Manchester United and the occasion was fantastic and as a club, lets enjoy and savour this moment and hopefully we can get a result against them.

We have had some good performances against good teams lately. Any time you are playing in front of a bigger crowds it can help the players, because you get that extra spring in the step or that extra adrenaline flowing and hopefully that will carry us forwards and make it difficult for Arsenal.”

His team selection will not be an easy one for the manager though, as he admits: “After Saturday’s game we have a run of Saturday-Saturday fixtures, against Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa, so we will go as strong as we can do this weekend.

“What that is, is up to me to decide and pick a system and personnel to try and win the game.

“We are not there to make the numbers up, we are going to try and cause an upset. We have shown over the last few weeks and months that we can change system and personnel and the last couple of games have given me plenty of things to consider.

“You saw on Monday we left four out who can come in contention to play and we have others back from injury, so it will be tough to pick the team and some lads will be very disappointed they are not involved, because they all want to be involved,” he added.

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