Arsene Wenger has called for Arsenal fans not to lose faith in his "absolutely amazing" young team and insisted the long-term future of the club is bright.
Arsenal's season is in danger of unravelling following a morale-sapping six-week spell which has seen them beaten in the Carling Cup final at Wembley, crash out of the Champions League to Barcelona and then lose an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.
Following last weekend's stalemate against 10-man Blackburn, there were some dissenting voices among the Gunners faithful, while yesterday the Arsenal Supporters Trust expressed their "considerable disappointment" at recent results while pundits continue to question the manager's faith in youth.
Wenger takes his battle-weary squad up to fast-fading Blackpool on Sunday looking for a first league win since February 23 as a third successive draw left them seven points behind United, but with a match in hand ahead of their showdown at Emirates Stadium on May 1.
The Gunners boss insists all is not yet lost, and the campaign as a whole must be put into perspective.
"It doesn't hurt me personally, but it bothers me that the players do not get the recognition for what they have put in since the start of the season," Wenger said.
"It is important we realise this team is absolutely amazing for what they do at their age. One day people will understand that, but at the moment, I am not sure many people do.
"How old is [Jack] Wilshere? 19. It looks like in England you cannot play without him. How old is [Cesc] Fabregas? How old is [Samir] Nasri?
"Now it is a crucial moment where we have to trust these players and not listen to some opinions of people who have not worked half a day in football.
"Do you know how much work, dedication and mental strength is behind a team like that?
"They have not been built just like that, it is a real process of club work, coaching work - that is not just to go out and buy a player for X amount of money.
"What is hard in football is to build a team and work with the players every day."
While Wenger can understand the frustrations of supporters, he insists time will prove his policy justified.
"People's opinion is people's opinion and we have to accept that in our game," he said.
"As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years and stand up for that."
Wenger continued: "I believe we have done well. We have been hit very hard with big disappointments, but we have not lost in the FA Cup or the Champions League against anybody, we have lost against good teams.
"Personally, I am very proud of the attitude, the behaviour and the quality of our season. I will defend that until the end.
"We want to fight until the last game of the season.
"If there is a team that is better than us we have to accept it.
"I believe we do not have to be ashamed at the moment of what we have done.
"Rather, I have to be proud because if I took statements from all the people here at the start of the season we were not even in the top five. Now it is a scandal we are second.
"If at the end of the season Manchester United are better than us, we have to say congratulations.
"What is important from now until the end of the season is we give absolutely everything to beat them. That for me is success."
Wenger was visibly down following last weekend's goalless draw at home to Rovers, a performance which he described as "flat".
The Gunners boss, however, today insisted he was "very up for a fight" and expects a response from his players at Bloomfield Road, where England winger Theo Walcott faces a fitness test on his ankle.
"It was a disappointing result, but we have to bounce back and come out with a good performance on Sunday," Wenger said.
"The way we respond now until the end of the season is hugely important for us because we have worked so hard since the start that is very important we battle until the end."
Wenger added: "Nobody expected Blackpool to be where they are.
"They are going through a difficult period, but overall they have played good football and done very well."Reuse content