Wednesday 28 September 2016

Arsene Wenger comes out fighting as thousands of Arsenal fans stage boycott

Mark Bryans

Published 22/04/2016 | 07:56

General view of empty seats inside the stadium before the start of the match
General view of empty seats inside the stadium before the start of the match

Arsene Wenger has called on Arsenal fans to "come and support the team" after the Gunners beat West Brom in front of a reduced Emirates Stadium crowd on Thursday night.

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The 2-0 win saw Wenger's side move back up to third place in the Barclays Premier League but a sizeable number of fans stayed away from the stadium.

Reports before the game suggested as many as 2,500 season-ticket holders had returned their seats for the fixture due to disillusionment at another season where a title bid faded away.

While official figures for tickets sold put the attendance at 59,563, in reality there were far fewer supporters inside the ground as two first-half goals from Alexis Sanchez sealed the win for Arsenal.

There were also banners unveiled at full-time calling for an end to Wenger's near-20 year reign, but the Frenchman said afterwards he wants the stay-away supporters to come back and get behind the side.

Asked for a message to the fans who opted against attending, Wenger replied: "To come and support the team. If you love football, you go out there and I think you see quality football.

"That's what we try to give to our people. It was a special night as well, Thursday night, and I don't know if you are intelligent enough, nor am I, to detect exactly why everybody that did not turn up tonight did not turn up.

"Every point is important at the moment. I think we are under permanent pressure in every single game so it is important to have the lead and focus on the way we want to play football."

Baggies boss Tony Pulis was left questioning the way he prepared his side for the Thursday night clash.

The visitors were largely second-best but did hit the crossbar through Gareth McAuley with the score at 1-0.

Sanchez opened the scoring after just six minutes against a team set up to frustrate their hosts and Pulis admitted he will look at his own preparations as a result.

"We were off it tonight. The players have given me everything this year," he said.

"We have played well at all of the big teams this year but not tonight. Sometimes you have to take defeat on the chin.

"This is the first time we have played on a Thursday night so we will look at the preparation. It's the first time as a manager I've had to play on a Thursday.

"We never played as well as we can. We had too many players off it which you can't do at Arsenal."

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