Middlesbrough boss ready to head-to-head with Arsenal boss Wenger

Steve Agnew
Steve Agnew

Steve Agnew will go head-to-head with embattled Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitting the Frenchman’s plight shows just how difficult Premier League management can be.

Wenger and his side will arrive at Middlesbrough tonight scrapping to keep themselves in the race for a top-four finish, having slipped nine points adrift of Liverpool with two games in hand over the weekend.

The Gunners boss is facing concerted calls for his head after a disappointing campaign by the club’s standards, even with his track record, and Boro’s interim head coach believes that simply demonstrates how tough life at the top can be.

Agnew, who desperately needs a first victory of his fledgling reign against Arsenal, said: “Absolutely. The game is results-driven, we all know that, and he’s had 20 years at Arsenal, which is an amazing achievement.

“Of course they’re in a difficult moment, certainly away from home. But they have got top-quality players throughout the team, so we have no doubt it will be a really, really difficult game.

“It is a challenge because he’s got top, top players through the squad. It’s full of internationals and Arsene Wenger, in my opinion, is one of the most talented coaches there’s been around for many years.

“Of course it’s a challenge, but one I am very much looking forward to.”

Agnew was installed as Aitor Karanka’s temporary replacement last month, when he was handed he chance to make the job his on a permanent basis.

Four games in he has two draws to his name, but finds Boro six points from safety, again having played two fewer games than most of the sides around them, yet with time fast running out.

The pressure is growing by the week, although the head coach is urging his players to let him bear that weight.

He said: “A playing career obviously is something that you never want to end. You prepare yourself for the game within the team.

“But obviously coaching is different, completely different, because you now have a 25-man squad to manage and to work on. But it’s something I have always enjoyed doing.”

Agnew has been boosted by the return of George Friend and Gaston Ramirez from calf and ankle injuries respectively, and his only absentee will be Calum Chambers, who is ineligible to play against his parent club under the terms of his loan move.