Arsène Wenger calls for solidarity in wake of Man United defeat
‘We had a very, very bad week and it’s down to us to make this week a very good one’
Arsène Wenger: ‘What you want from your fans is to fight together until the last game of the season.’ Photograph: Afp
Arsène Wenger has thanked people for their concern over his job security, as he responded to the avalanche of criticism that has followed Arsenal’s 3-2 Premier League defeat at Manchester United on Sunday with humour and a sense of perspective.
The manager sought to look ahead to Wednesday night’s visit from Swansea City, when his team will attempt to close the gap on the leaders, Leicester City, which stands at five points with 11 matches to play. He also confirmed that the midfielder, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, would be out for “six to eight weeks” with the knee-ligament injury that he suffered against Barcelona in the Champions League last Tuesday.
But the focus remained on the United loss, which has prompted an outpouring of frustration from supporters – some of whom are so cheesed off with the repetition of the same old frailties that they want to start again without Wenger. He has seen it all before, too, and he made his latest plea for unity.
“We have built this club, and it has been built before me, with values,” Wenger said. “What we try to do is respect these values and when we are disappointed, we need to show these values and clarity to fight together. Everybody has freedom of opinion and I enjoy very much that people care about my future. I thank them for that. Apart from that, in my life, I always taken care of myself and my future.
“What you want from your fans is to fight together until the last game of the season. What we have learnt from the league is that it is very tight, that everybody can drop points, and the teams – and the fans – who can show togetherness and solidarity until the end, might come out of it in a positive way. That’s what we want, to fight together until the last game of the season and not give up when you have a bad game or a bad result. That’s what fans and players and teams and clubs are about.”
Wenger has long taken the criticism he receives on the chin and he is not about to begin complaining now. “I’m never surprised by the criticism that comes,” he said. “That’s part of the media today. Part of the opinion is always a bit excessive and emotional, but we have to deal with that and I don’t complain about it. I think people are a bit too emotional and we want to put things into perspective by analysing things a bit more in a neutral way. This club is respected all over the world despite what people say.
“We want to transform the negatives into positives around us and create even more solidarity. Let’s not go overboard. We do not play to be relegated. We are playing to fight for the title. That’s why we have to put criticism in the right place.
“We had a very, very bad week and it’s down to us to make this week a very good one. A bad week is not permanent. It’s what you make of it and how you respond. That’s the beauty of sport. Things change quickly one way or the other.”
Wenger’s team is always lambasted for a lack of leaders and mental fortitude when they lose but the manager, unsurprisingly, continues to see it differently. “In a collective psyche, you always think you need a saviour when you have a bad result,” he said.
“We have won big games this season, many big games, with exactly the same players. I don’t feel that I lack leaders. Who are the leaders? The team. In every position. The players lead and we try to develop that with our work. Our job is to have a leader in every position.”
Wenger suggested that he might make a few changes against Swansea and he name-checked Danny Welbeck, who has only just returned from a long-term knee injury, as one player from the starting line-up at United who he would have to assess.
“It’s possible I will make changes,” Wenger said. “Some players are still not out of it. I will have to see if I have to be cautious with Danny Welbeck or not. Medically, I need advice on that and I will see.”
On Oxlade-Chamberlain, he said: “He will be out for six to eight weeks. No surgery. We feared surgery at some stage before we saw the MRI. In the end, we got, on that front, positive news.”