Sunday 25 February 2018

Wenger urges Arsenal fans to remain 'united' after swerving questions on future

Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal beyond this season remains uncertain
Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal beyond this season remains uncertain

Arsene Wenger swerved questions over his Arsenal future as he called on supporters to remain "united" with the team following back-to-back defeats.

The Frenchman celebrated 20 years in charge of the Gunners last October but, after a shock home reverse against Watford and a 3-1 loss at Chelsea, the chances of securing a first Premier League title since 2004 are slim.

Wenger said last week that his "gut feeling" would help him determine whether to extend his stay - with his current deal expiring in the summer - although recent results have again seen a vocal minority of fans calling for the 67-year-old to go.

The former Monaco manager's future remains unclear but, ahead of Saturday's vital visit of struggling Hull, Wenger would not be drawn on the subject.

"I answer that question every week and nothing has changed compared to last week. That's basically it," he said.

"Once again, thank you for caring about my future, but that's not the most important thing. My future is in front of me every time I make a half-turn.

"What is important for me is that Arsenal Football Club does well, and I dedicate my whole energy to the club doing well - I am a professional and I have to do a job and that's what I want to do."

Wenger, who will serve the last of a four-game touchline ban when the Tigers visit the Emirates Stadium, watched from the stands as table-topping Chelsea eased to victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend.

One fan was shown on television with a sign which read: "Enough is enough. Time to go" while there have been similar banners unfurled in recent seasons when any title challenge has curtailed.

Wenger wants supporters to stick with the team, despite suggestions there may be a number of empty seats against Hull, with a Champions League clash at Bayern Munich and a fifth-round FA Cup tie at non-league Sutton also on the agenda.

"Of course, our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well," he said.

"But I don't feel it is absolutely clear. You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday and not be a fan any more and not be behind the team this Saturday, it doesn't make sense.

"All the other clubs, everywhere we fight with Man United, Man City, Liverpool they have big expectations as well and big histories.

"We are in a fight there, we absolutely have to be united or we have no chance to do it. You have Tottenham, everyone is in the fight and everyone is behind their team. We have to do exactly the same, even if we had two disappointing results."

Wenger also responded to a number of newspaper reports on Thursday morning, first all of refuting claims he is set to drop goalkeeper Petr Cech for Saturday's game.

The experienced former Chelsea stopper was at fault for the Blues' third goal last time out but Wenger says any suggestion he will pay for the error by being replaced is premature.

"My team is not picked for Saturday yet, so I have to leave my choice open until then," he said.

"That is not at stake in my thinking at the moment. It is difficult to come out individually on a player. Petr Cech is a guy who prepares well, is serious, and wants to do well.

"He was at fault for the third goal (at Chelsea) but overall I believe he has had a good season."

Wenger also said there have never been discussions with Bournemouth over making Jack Wilshere's loan move to the Cherries a permanent one amid talk the south-coast club are reconsidering their position.

And he also said quotes attributed to Laurent Koscielny after the loss at Chelsea were taken out of context following suggestions the captain had called into question Wenger's tactics.

"The comments that have been made were lost in translation," he said.

"They have been twisted. But anyway, the players are responsible for their performance. The club works well when everybody does his job."

He did confirm that Mohamed Elneny is available on Saturday after returning from the African Nations Cup, where he scored Egypt's goal as they lost the final to Cameroon.

Hector Bellerin, however, is less likely to feature having not trained all week having been forced off at Chelsea.

The full-back was caught in the face by Marcos Alonso's forearm as the Chelsea man headed his side in front.

Wenger was enraged at the time and again labelled it "absolutely scandalous", with Gabriel likely to deputise for Bellerin at right-back this weekend.

Press Association

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