Arsene Wenger has conceded Arsenal’s home form has been their undoing this season but has called on fans to remain behind the club amid speculation of a mass no-show.
The Gunners welcome West Brom to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday evening having drawn their last home game against Crystal Palace to all-but eliminate them from this season’s race for the Barclays Premier League title.
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 have dropped behind Leicester and Tottenham and now face a fight to secure Champions League qualification with a top-four finish.
But, although Wenger – who again insisted he intends to at least see out his current deal – admits results at home have cost them dearly, he also wants supporters to be positive and reckons the club are still achieving its goals.
“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.
“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.”
Asked if previous success had created a rod for his own back in terms of expectations, Wenger replied: “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.”