Belfast Telegraph

Arsène Wenger tells Arsenal fans that he's fed up with player sales too

By James Olley

Discontentment among supporters has been a persistent undercurrent at Arsenal this season but Arsène Wenger insists the environment is no excuse for failure in the north London derby against Tottenham.

The disgruntlement voiced at several matches this season translated to a stormy Annual General Meeting last month with a section of the club's fans taking to singing "we want our Arsenal back" and aiming vitriolic abuse at chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

An awkward dichotomy of seven trophyless seasons combined with the highest ticket prices in the country has widened the gap between fans watching leading players depart and a board speak of ambition and the most solid financial footing in world football.

The derby against Spurs therefore comes at a pivotal moment for Wenger, who has not been immune to criticism himself. Last season, chants of "you don't know what you're doing" rang out in January's home defeat to Manchester United and Spurs arrived the following month threatening to open a 13-point lead in the table.

They raced into a 2-0 lead amid howls of derision from Arsenal supporters – many targeting Theo Walcott after a poor individual first-half display – but roared back to win 5-2 and change the mood.

Wenger is hoping for an equally ebullient experience this lunchtime with supporters of both clubs also urged to avoid anti-Semitic chants and the biannual abuse of the Arsenal manager and Emmanuel Adebayor.

"You think I'm not fed up [with losing the club's best players]? I want them as well to stay," said Wenger. "We have to deal with the crowd. That's our job. We cannot say we are professional and we are affected by any reaction of the crowd. It's our job to deal with that.

"If you want to be a top-level professional you have to understand that your crowd wants you to win and you have to deal with the fact they are not always happy. That's where you see the personalities and the sense of responsibility of the players.

"I understand the logic of it, you know. It's not that the guys are against you as an individual. They want you to win the game and you represent the guy who can make them happy, so that's part of it, but we haven't done too badly. We have finished every year in a good position.

"What affects me is that our fans are not happy. It doesn't stop me from doing what I do on the football pitch, but if you ask me, my biggest desire is to see our fans happy – like the players as well."

Arsenal have finished above Tottenham every season since 1994/95 – a year before Wenger took charge of the Gunners – but have won only two of their last seven Premier League meetings.

Asked if Spurs were closing the gap, Wenger replied: "I get that question every year. For some time, we were winning championships and they were not in the top four at all, so of course they've got closer in recent years. But fortunately we managed always to get above them.

"They have a good side every year and they are always a team who are now fighting with us and it's important in the end, the consistency, and certainly the results in the two derbies can have a big influence as well on the qualifying spots for the Champions League."

Wenger will make a last minute decision on the fitness of striker Olivier Giroud, who returned from international duty with France complaining of hamstring and calf problems, while midfielder Mikel Arteta (hip) will also undergo a late fitness test.

Derby day thrillers: Great goal gluts

Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham, 26 Feb 2012

Third-place Spurs took an early 2-0 lead and were set to go 13 points clear of their neighbours before Arsenal scored five in 27 minutes. Tottenham's season fell away.

Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal, 20 April 2011

Arsenal surrendered a 3-1 lead to fall out of title contention, Rafael van der Vaart scoring twice.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham, 20 Nov 2010

Trailing 2-0 down at half-time Tottenham hit back to win at Arsenal for the first time in 17 years, Younès Kaboul heading the winner.

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, 29 Oct 2008

Two goals in the dying minutes saw Spurs rescue a point in Harry Redknapp's first game in charge.

Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal, 13 Nov 2004

Defending took a back seat as nine players found the net, Arsenal winning on a ground where they won the title seven months previously.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph