Arsene Wenger has defended his record at Arsenal as their supporters prepare to protest against the club, claiming only his loyalty secured the funding required to build the Emirates Stadium.
Amid their latest failure to win the Premier League title, Black Scarf Movement, RedAction and the Arsenal Supporters Trust want those present during Saturday’s home fixture with Norwich to raise placards reading: “Time for change. Arsenal is stale, fresh approach needed.”
The pressure on Wenger is the greatest it has been for several seasons, with some sections of the club’s fans losing faith in his ability.
But in that climate the Frenchman has reminded them he remained loyal in difficult circumstances when his reputation was at its strongest, insisting it was his commitment to the club that helped secure the bank loans required to fund their impressive £390million stadium.
“When we built the stadium the banks demanded that I signed for five years,” said the 66-year-old. “I did it. Do you want me to tell you how many clubs I turned down during that period?
“The banks wanted the technical consistency to guarantee that we have a chance to pay (them) back. I did commit and I stayed and under very difficult circumstances. So for me to come back and on top of that (critics) reproach me for not having won the championship during that period it is a bit overboard.
“I accept criticism (but) I think that it is a bit too far.”
Much of the frustration surrounding Arsenal’s recent ability to make significant progress in recent seasons – it is 12 years since they last won the Premier League and 10 since they made it to the Champions League final – surrounds a belief from the club’s fans there is a reluctance to sufficiently invest in Wenger’s squad.
The manager, who could recall the fit-again Santi Cazorla or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Saturday, has already insisted he is not planning to overhaul his squad this summer despite obvious vulnerabilities in central defence and in front of goal, and he reiterated: “All this calming people down by buying names, for me that is wrong calculation.
“We want to be a better team and do not look too much at the names. I know it is more flashy, all that, but what is important is the quality of the games.
“We want to win everything. That is the target of every season when you start the season. Next season you have to face the same competition again, don’t worry, and you have all the best managers coming into the league, everyone investing more money, and the competition will be fierce again.
“Do not question our quality, but the margin is very small. The difference at some stage, the turning point at some stage in the season was very small. We were nearly there and as well we played in many competitions. Suddenly you lose one game that is unexpected and our team was very quickly under pressure.
“Our fans have been frustrated and disappointed because they thought we would win the league this season and we didn’t. So are we as well. But that doesn’t mean we have to throw everything away.”