Arsene Wenger says his players “do not want to play in a negative environment” as the Gunners prepare to welcome West Bromwich Albion to the Emirates on Thursday.
At his pre-match press conference today, Arsene was asked about the dark mood among fans and whether his side would be able to cope with the atmosphere if Thursday’s match turned sour.
“[Having the fans behind us] is ideal, yes. You do not want to play in a negative environment, if we do we can still perform. We are responsible for the performance of the team and it is true that at the moment it is not a highlight but we have to take a distance with that.
“I hope in the next years Arsenal will always play in the top three and hopefully people won’t get disenchanted and have to agree with less.
“Every time it doesn’t work, you question yourself. That is part of your job. Of course in the end it’s always down to me, so I have to stand up to that.”
There has been a lot of hostility around the club this week, a lot of soul-searching, and a lot of brooding – that would doubtless have fed back to the players and the management.
The vast majority of fans are angry with how things have gone these last two months and that came to a head against Crystal Palace, with a truly insipid performance.
It has been widely reported that tickets for the West Brom game have been placed on general sale, with season ticket holders among a large number set to stay away. It has been suggested that it may even be the smallest Premier League crowd at the Emirates since it opened. That will speak volumes.
Arsene and the team may very well prefer to play in a positive environment but I just don’t think that is going to happen – not this time. There is no god-given right for fans to expect to win the title every year, but they can expect better than what was served up against Palace.
A lot of people are utterly fed up and a few platitudes aren’t going to change that. Arsene has broad enough shoulders to take all the criticism coming his way but it remains to be seen how the players will react.
Personally, I would prefer those who do turn up to continue to get behind the team. Manchester City dropped points again yesterday at Newcastle and it is important that we capitalise on that, there is still places to play for this year, if nothing else.
On the injury front, Jack Wilshere continues to progress, and there is some suggestion he may be available for the weekend. Elsewhere, Santi Cazorla has turned to training and may feature again in the closing stages of the season.
Other than that, it’s business as usual and the same team that drew with Palace will be in contention to start against West Brom.