Belfast Telegraph

Carling Cup: Wenger backed as Arsenal avoid shock

Arsenal 3 Shrewsbury Town 1: Arsene Wenger yesterday received resounding backing from Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis despite his team's poor start to the season.

That was before the Gunners were threatened with a Carling Cup shock, going 1-0 down against League Two promotion chasers Shrewsbury Town, thanks to a goal from James Collins after just 16 minutes.

A highly embarrassing result was avoided with Kieran Gibbs levelling on 33 minutes, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun also scored their first goals for the club in the second-half.

A Carling Cup defeat to a team from the fourth tier of English football is the last thing Wenger needs after enduring a testing time over the last few months, losing captain Cesc Fabregas and star player Samir Nasri before the club went on to make their worst start to a season in 58 years.

The Gunners have recorded just one league win so far — against newly-promoted Swansea — and sit 17th in the Premier League table after five games. They also suffered the humiliation of an |8-2 hammering at Manchester United and looked a shadow of their former selves on Saturday when they lost 4-3 to strugglers Blackburn.

Wenger has looked increasingly strained in recent days following criticism of his side from the media and sections of the Arsenal support.

Chief executive Gazidis denies Wenger, who has won three Premier League titles, is losing his touch and was adamant that he and American owner Stan Kroenke are fully behind their manager.

"Arsene did not suddenly become a bad manager or somebody who became out of touch with the game. It is complete nonsense," said Gazidis.

"Sacking him is a route we are not going to go down.

"Stan Kroenke is very supportive of Arsenal's self-sustaining model and of Arsene Wenger.

"To see him portrayed as some kind of idiot is profoundly damaging, not to Arsenal or Arsene, but for the game."

Wenger became the only manager to win a Premier League title with an unbeaten team in 2004, but has not won a competition in the last six-and-a-half years.

Gazidis says Wenger understands why the club's supporters are unhappy but insists that the club's consistent top-four finishes mean the last few years have not been a failure.

"When we look at Arsenal over the last six years that we haven't won a trophy, many people will say that is a total failure," said Gazidis.

"I understand that, I accept it because in a sense it shows where we are as a club which is right at the top of the game.

"At the same time, I cannot accept it's a total failure because actually we have been incredibly consistent over a long period."

Belfast Telegraph


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