Arsene Wenger immune to volatility of Arsenal fans - 'The most excessive reactions get the biggest echo'
It is 16 days since Arsenal last played a home match and, having departed the Emirates Stadium on top of the Premier League, they now return looking up at a nine-point gap to Chelsea.
Festive cheer and optimism, then, is likely to be replaced by renewed tension and scepticism, even if Arsene Wenger is adamant that he has become “immune” to the volatility of some fans.
“The most excessive reactions get the biggest echo; that’s just society,” he said, before drawing a typically wide-ranging comparison with the fluctuating global sociological mood.
“We have gone that way,” observed Wenger. “You have five candidates to be elected Prime Minister and you organise the vote one Sunday. People will elect one. You organise a vote for the next Sunday and you might elect somebody else. We have to live with that and the excessive reactions.
“Fortunately, we live in a country where everybody has a freedom to have an opinion. We have to respect that. I do not say that I am immune to critics but I do not want to be influenced too much by it. We have to focus on what we want to achieve; give the maximum to achieve it and question yourself always.”
Wenger is well aware that a fevered debate has surrounded his future now for several years but he also knows that an “election culture” can just as quickly swing in his favour.
“I've been long enough in the job to put that into perspective, as part of people who love the club and are really disappointed and get their frustration out,” he said.
“They go to work and they want to be happy that Arsenal has won. I want to make the people who love the club happy. That is all. It doesn't mean they are not ready to change their mind if we don't win the next game.”
The more critical question relates to the Arsenal players. Most of them were not even born when Wenger started out in management and so cannot possibly have his outlook amid a mood that might very well turn if West Bromwich Albion are not beaten.
There will be particular focus on Mesut Ozil following criticism of his largely anonymous recent performances, although Wenger says that internal strength and confidence remains high.
“There’s a special thing happening for a footballer in the dressing room,” said Wenger. “I spoke with David Beckham about that recently. I asked him, ‘Do you miss it?’ He said, ‘I can play football every day. I’m invited in all the charity games but I miss the dressing room. That being together for something; fighting together. That’s what you miss’.”
Wenger is also adamant that there will be further ups and downs for what has become a defined pack now of six leading clubs.
“You do not go through the season and have no disappointments,” he said. “It is the teams who respond well together who have the most success. In 20 years, I had very few seasons where you start on the motorway and you finish on the motorway with no car in front of you.”