Sunday 17 December 2017

Wenger feeling pressure for 'must-win' City clash

Wenger (right) is desperate to carry on – and it would now be a shock if he did not. Photo: PA
Wenger (right) is desperate to carry on – and it would now be a shock if he did not. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

Arsene Wenger has admitted he is "in a place that I don't want to be" after Arsenal's run of dire results, describing the Premier League fixture at home to Manchester City as a game "I absolutely have to win".

Although the Arsenal manager was relaxed and even joking in his briefing ahead of tomorrow's home encounter, there was an edge - and a realisation that he is reaching a defining month - to his answers.

When asked why he appeared so relaxed, after the international break which was entered into with the horrible loss away to West Bromwich Albion, Wenger's reply was illuminating.

"I don't know if I am in a much better place," he said. "I am just in a place that I don't want to be. I just lost a big game. And I will play another one that I absolutely have to win.

"I am focused and I know what to do. I managed enough games that I know that in football you have to go sometimes through tricky periods.

"A very difficult period is a good opportunity to show what you are about and for the team to show what they are about."

Arsenal's worst run of league form in Wenger's 20 seasons - and their worst since Stewart Houston was manager in April 1995 - has coincided with the increasingly fractious, divided debate as to whether he should stay, with his current contract running out at the season's end and a two-year deal expected to be signed.

There was also the embarrassing Champions League exit to Bayern Munich, 10-2 on aggregate.

Wenger is desperate to carry on - and it would now be a shock if he did not - but is well-aware that he needs to turn the club's momentum around as they have dropped to sixth place and are in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time under him. Doing so would demolish one of his strongest arguments for staying.

There was further sign of the fan discontent yesterday, with the Arsenal Supporters Trust stating that a survey of its 1,000-strong membership showed that 78pc (of the 550 who replied) believed Wenger was no longer the right man to lead the club. In the last survey of its kind, 18 months ago, Wenger's approval rating was 84pc.

Arsenal have not been this low in the league table since before they left Highbury for the Emirates Stadium in 2006.

Wenger, in his 21st year with Arsenal, is the longest serving manager in English professional football.

And Pep Guardiola, who lauded the 67-year-old as the "commander in chief" before the teams met in December, has warned his Manchester City players that Arsenal will never be more dangerous than they will be at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow after a run of six defeats in their past nine matches. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Arsenal v Manchester City,
Live, Sky Sports 1, 4.0 tomorrow

Irish Independent

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