Arsene Wenger has said that speculation over his future is “becoming a farce” after the pressure increased on the Arsenal boss following yesterday’s FA Cup defeat to Watford.
The Frenchman was forced to answer more questions over his suitability for the Gunners job after the FA Cup holders were dumped out in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 loss at the Emirates.
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But Wenger has called those Arsenal supporters who doubt whether he is still the right man to “stand behind the club”, and reserve judgement on their performance until the end of the season.
Wenger, who has been in charge since 1996, is quoted by Sky Sports as saying: “What is going on at the moment is very, very difficult to take for the players, but judge us at the end of the season.
“We have come to the end of a very, very long run in the FA Cup, so it is very sad, but we want now to focus on the next game, which is always a big challenge and you are always in the middle of a drama.
“It is becoming a farce. We have lost a game. Arsenal has lost games before in history and we will lose again in the future. We will stick together and cope with it and prepare for the next with complete belief.
“Supporters stand behind the club and we want to fight until the end of the season for every single game. It is nothing to do with confidence. Of course the team have enough confidence.”
But there is no smoke without fire, and there is good reason why what seems to be an increasingly significant portion of Arsenal supporters feel that it is time for Wenger to walk away.
They are eight points behind leaders Leicester City in a Premier League season in which Arsenal have no excuse not to win the title, if the Foxes or Tottenham Hotspur beat them to it come May.
Arsenal were 11 points better off than Spurs, and 34 better off than Leicester, in last season’s final standings, and had much greater financial resources to utilise on new players in the summer.
But again Wenger stubbornly refused to plug gaping holes in his side, while Tottenham brought in defender Toby Alderweireld and Leicester signed midfielder N’Golo Kante at bargain prices. Either of those signings could have addressed a glaring weakness of Arsenal’s, and made a big difference.
The Gunners are almost certain to be knocked out in the Champions League on Wednesday, when they take a 2-0 deficit to European champions Barcelona for the second leg of their last-16 tie.
And any suggestions that they were unfortunate to draw the Spanish giants in the first knockout round are misleading, because Wenger threw away Arsenal’s chances of finishing top of their group with his weakened team selections in defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos at the start of the campaign.
Now Arsenal don’t even have the FA Cup to fall back on. This time Wenger named almost his strongest available side, but they seemed unmotivated and flaws in his personnel were exploit again.
The Gunners have now lost three home games in a row for the first time in 2002. The glory days of three Premier League titles – the last in 2004 – are long gone and they cannot protect Wenger forever.
Wenger cannot be immune from criticism because of his past achievements. These achievements must be respected, but they should not be a barrier which prevents the change that Arsenal need.
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