Arsene Wenger calls on protesting Arsenal fans to back team
By Stephen Turner
Last Updated: 29/04/16 12:20pm
Arsene Wenger has called on protesting supporters to respect Arsenal's "values" and suggested fan unrest may have contributed to this season's failed title challenge.
Arsenal's most successful manager is facing unprecedented criticism amid another end-of-season scrap for a top-four place, and two prominent fan groups have joined forces to co-ordinate a protest at the Saturday Night Football game against Norwich.
Supporters are being asked to display banners reading: "Time for change. Arsenal is stale - fresh approach needed" in a message intended for Wenger and the club's hierarchy.
Ahead of the game the manager claimed Arsenal's fans have been "manipulated" by people with "personal agendas" and "big egos" and even suggested a "difficult climate" at the Emirates has been a factor in disappointing home results.
"I can understand the frustration," Wenger said. "No one is more frustrated than me, but our disappointment has not to go too far.
"When a club cannot enjoy anything any more, it is in trouble, and we have to not forget that in football you go down very quickly and you come up very slowly."
West Ham, Chelsea and Swansea have all won in north London this season, while Southampton and Crystal Palace both left with a point.
Wenger said: "We lost the championship at home against lower teams, but we played sometimes at home in a very difficult climate. Away we are championship winners.
"The club has very special values and one is to stick together and support the team - there is no success otherwise."
The Frenchman again defended his record of constant Champions League qualification even when the club was paying for the Emirates - "we needed to to qualify in three out of five years and sell our best players every year - we did five years out of five" - and made a passionate defence of players whose character has been questioned at key times this season.
He said: "I tell you, this team has character and attitude. Some people who question them, I know them well - they have less character than this team has. I saw them play, and even know them very closely, and they should not question the character of these players."
And without naming names he said: "There are some groups of people that try to manipulate our fans, but I believe apart from a personal agenda and a big ego there's not a lot behind [the criticism]."
Wenger also denied owner Stan Kroenke - an increasingly unpopular figure with the club's supporters' groups - had ever sought to stop him spending money.
"I don't want to go into personal comment of my owners," he said. "Every club should work with the resources it generates and that is what we do - that is one of the values I speak about and that is what I speak about.
"He has never stopped me in the transfer market, He is very ambitious, we all are."