Arsene Wenger has explained the reason for Arsenal’s failed Premier League title challenge this season but says finishing third is “no shame”.
The Gunners welcome West Brom to Emirates Stadium on Thursday evening knowing even a win would leave them 10 points behind Leicester City at the top of the table following a draw against Crystal Palace in their last home game.
Having been top at the turn of the year, plenty of Arsenal supporters have turned on Wenger in recent months, with banners displayed at matches calling for an end to his near-20 years at the helm.
Now many fans plan to vote with their feet and stay at home for the clash against the Baggies, with some reports suggesting as many as 2,500 tickets have been released on general sale for the televised game.
With just two home league wins since the start of February, Arsenal now face a fight to secure a place in the top four and next season’s Champions League.
Wenger, who again insisted he intends to at least see out his current deal, admits results at home have cost them dearly, but he has urged supporters to stay behind the team.
“Our home form has not been exceptional,” he said.
“Our away form has been good. Our home form, we feel it many times, we did not score enough goals at home, especially against Crystal Palace with the amount of possession we had we did not score enough goals.
“We always look dangerous, dominating, but we are not efficient enough. Overall, as well, we gave a few leads away. That is quite disappointing.
“I focus on my job. I’m not here to judge our fans. We have to respect our fans, we have values that our fans hopefully share with us and when they are not happy, you have to accept it. We want them to be happy.
“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.”
Although Wenger will not be happy to finish third after a strong first half to the season, the Frenchman has sought to remind supporters that this era must be considered a successful one when compared to history.
“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,” Wenger said.
“I would like to remind you that if we win the game tomorrow, we are third in the league and if you look at the history of the club, over 140 years, and the consistency of the club, you will see that it’s not a shame. Even if we are not happy with it.
“I don’t think that when you’re on the pitch it (anxiety from the crowd) doesn’t stop you from finishing or scoring. Maybe we are keen against Crystal Palace, we wanted so much to score the second goal that we forget to be a bit more worried about killing the game. If I look again at the game it was six against two at the back.
“Some teams come now to the Emirates and play very, very deep and are quick on the break as well. (Yannick) Bolasie, (Wilfried) Zaha, they can take the ball in their final third and go to your box. The physical power and potential of the teams has improved in the Premier League and makes it more difficult.”