Football

Arsenal stars must protect Wenger's future

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Arsene Wenger has faced stinging attacks on not only his character, but also his capability as a manager from all directions in recent months. However, the Frenchman has refused to blame his players for a number of Arsenal's under-par performances this season.

Last weekend's 5-2 north London derby victory over Tottenham has briefly quietened the many detractors that have felt it necessary to question exactly what is going on at the Emirates Stadium, with some going as far as calling for a managerial change.

In his 16 years in England, the Gunners boss has been instrumental in turning a club previously subjected to mid-table mediocrity year after year, into a constant challenger at the top end of the Premier League table, successfully qualifying for the Champions League in each of the past 15 seasons.

Why Wenger's future is anything but secure is beyond me – there is no reason for debate. He is, after all, Mr Arsenal. The way he has so gracefully batted away continuous criticism, shouldered the blame and protected his players is commendable.

His unwavering self-belief in the way that the club is run, within a budget, is also particularly poignant in an era that spending is seen as the solution for success. Arsenal remain competitive, and continue to produce exciting young talent.

"I fight for what I can master," he said in an interview prior to the Spurs clash. "It's a waste of energy and of time to speak about people who have opinions. Everyone has the right to an opinion.

"But an opinion is just one single person who says something. It does not mean that they are right."

Amid all the gloom that has followed successive defeats in the Champions League and FA Cup, effectively condemning the Gunners to a seventh consecutive season without a trophy, there is still much to play for this season.

There is an argument that winning the battle with Liverpool, Newcastle and Chelsea to finish fourth would be more significant to Arsenal, and their immediate future, than any of the seven trophies that were previously won under Wenger.

"Every game is massive now," he continued. "What is terrible is to play a game of no importance. You can't complain. We are in a fantastic job and we have big games in front of us.

"To feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal. We have an opportunity to show that we have character.

"We live in a world where everybody is positive when it goes well, but life is not only ups, it is ups and downs. Successful lives are how ­people respond when they are down."

After emphatically overcoming what had been described by many as one of the most important games in Wenger's entire Arsenal tenure, it appears there is plenty of fight in the old dog - and his young Gunners - yet.

Despite criticism from a variety of the great and the good from the club's distinguished past - who have lamented some of the players as failures, saying they are not up to the challenge, and questioning the manager's transfer policy - Arsenal are still in the mix.

Currently fourth on goal difference, they now lie seven points behind Tottenham in third place, and travel to Anfield to face a Liverpool side fresh from last Sunday's Carling Cup success at Wembley, this weekend. Victory would further extend their gap over one of the chasing pack.

"When people want you to be bad, they tell you that you are bad," Wenger explained ahead of tomorrow's Merseyside encounter. "Sometimes you have to accept that you are questioned but sometimes the questioning is not always based on facts.

"But we have to live with that and I believe the best answer is to give the kind of performance we gave against Tottenham, not to talk too much and play.

"[The derby] was an important victory but for me it was significant because we won with style and desire. On the day we produced the performance we wanted, and if you look back in the championship, we are on a good run.

"It is good to be inspired by our performance [against Tottenham] and hopefully it will help us to produce another one of the same level because that will be wanted at Liverpool."

For the remainder of the season, Arsenal's charges are playing for pride, for that all-important Champions League spot, and most importantly of all, for Wenger's future. That is much more valuable than any trophy.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League

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