Arsene Wenger urges Arsenal to be united in face of 'fear and discontent'

Arsene Wenger today issued an impassioned rallying call at Arsenal's Annual General Meeting - urging everyone at the club to stay united behind the team.

The Gunners have slowly recovered form with seven wins from the last eight games as they reached the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup and moved top of their Champions League group following what was the most testing spell of Wenger's 15-season tenure - during which they were thumped 8-2 at Manchester United and slumped down the Barclays Premier League table.

While more tough challenges lie ahead, starting at rivals Chelsea on Saturday, Wenger remains adamant the future is bright if all Gunners fans continue to keep the faith.

"I can see a lot of fear and discontent among you and I can understand that because we live in a world where we fight with people who have extremely high resources," said Wenger, who spoke for more than 10 minutes at the end of what had been a sometimes spiky meeting where majority shareholder Stan Kroenke gave his first speech since completing a takeover.

"The way we can compete is to try to be intelligent, but as well to be united because it is very difficult to be consistent in football. We have been more consistent than anybody else in the world in the last 15 years.

"To stay at the top, top level, we have to be united.

"That doesn't mean I am not to be criticised. I accept that is part of my job and that the board has been criticised, but to the outside we have to show we are united because that is the only way to survive at the top.

"It is difficult enough if you are united. If you are not united, you have no chance.

"We defend values as well that at the time are questioned - the self-sufficient model. Do we want to change that or not? I believe, and I take full responsibility for this, that we can be competitive the way we run the club."

Wenger, who turned 62 earlier this month, admitted the bitter disappointments of last season - where his young side imploded after a shock Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham at Wembley - had lingered on, but must now be put to the back of everyone's minds as Arsenal look to fight their way back into the top four of the Premier League and into the latter stages of the European campaign.

The Gunners boss added: "We had a very difficult start to the season and were under tremendous pressure.

"We started at the Emirates [Stadium] with a very difficult environment because people were very sceptical.

"But they understood two things - if they do not get behind the team, we have no chance and secondly people realise this team has the right attitude and spirit.

"Even during the difficult periods in the last few home games, the fans have been absolutely fantastic behind the team, what we had not seen at the end of the season.

"It is time to realise that yes, times are more difficult, but yes we can still be successful under one condition, that we all stand behind the team, and are united.

"At the end of the season, we will see where we stand.

"If we give absolutely everything and do fight together for every single game in every single competition, we can still look back at the end of the season and be proud of our attitude and what we have achieved."

Wenger concluded: "I would personally like to turn round the scepticism that is surrounding this club at the moment. For me it is too high.

"If I just would like to achieve one thing today it is trust us, this team has qualities, this team will fight - and if you help us to do that I think we will have a successful season."

Meanwhile, Wenger said he was confident captain Robin van Persie would sign a new contract.

Van Persie's contract runs out in 2013 and Wenger said: "He has 18 months to go and I'm confident he'll sign a new deal. I'm always confident."

PA

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