Arsene Wenger banner: My Arsenal record is my defence, says Wenger to critics

Banner was unfurled in away end voicing disapproval of Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger’s detractors came out of the woodwork again at The Hawthorns, despite Arsenal’s 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but the Frenchman dismissed them with a Gallic shrug and a reminder of what he has achieved over 18 years at the north London club.

“Arsène, thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye,” read the banner which was unfurled after a victory which lifted his team back into the top six of the Premier League and completed a week in which they again qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.

Wenger’s initial response to the message was a curt refusal to comment but later, in a more reflective mood, he invited his critics to consider what he had achieved during his time at the club. It was a persuasive argument, albeit one which relied heavily on former glories.

“Look, in the last 15 years we are qualified for the last 16 in the Champions League,” said Wenger. “Give me another club who has done that. I think we have shown extreme consistency and that’s all we can do.

“We’ve had ups and downs in the league, yes, it’s true, but you only come back again when the spirit is strong and healthy and united inside the club. And I think if you have shown such a consistency, it’s because we have that at the club. We have values and we respect them.”

 

Suggestions that the words on the banner represented the writing on the wall over his future were defiantly banished with a promise that he would change neither his managerial style nor tactics.

“I can do my job,” he said. “I do my job with total commitment, I would like you to live with me and see for seven days what kind of work we produce, and you will see that it is total commitment. I don’t mind [if people don’t accept my style]. I do what I love, but I think I do it with honesty.”

Is he hurt by the fans’ criticism? “No. Honestly, no. I started to manage a team at the top level in 1983. If I am completely useless tactically, I am a genius [because] I can hide it very well.”

Danny Welbeck’s winning header crowned a performance which highlighted the intricacy and eye-pleasing nature of Arsenal’s attacks but also their lack of firepower. They next host Southampton on Wednesday, with injury doubts hanging over Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit despite picking up a knock.

Welbeck-reuters.jpg
Welbeck leaps to score his first goal in six matches

Albion’s third straight defeat has increased the pressure on their manager, Alan Irvine, who was taunted with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” over his second-half substitutions.

He admitted he found such abuse hurtful but accepts it is inevitable in today’s world of instant judgement and cruel verdicts. Irvine reckons even Sir Alex Ferguson would have been fortunate to survive his early failures at Manchester United in the modern game.

“It’s well known it took Ferguson a long time to have the success he had. In today’s climate he wouldn’t have got anywhere,” said Irvine. “People wouldn’t have seen the most successful manager in British football, because he’d have lost his job. It’s an instant society now. Everything’s expected in a hurry and everything’s done in a hurry.”

Just as with Wenger, Irvine’s answer is to work even harder and that means 12 or 13 hours a day, seven days a week. “I’m not going to be different from other managers,” he said. “It’s what we do. If you do that then at least when you put your head on the pillow at night you know you’ve tried the best you can. I do sleep, because I’m absolutely exhausted. But the first thing I think about when I wake up is football.”

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