Disbelief as Wenger claims Arsenal are 'in fantastic shape'
Arsene Wenger finds criticism 'unbelievable' but the fans are becoming seriously disillusioned
IT'S THE SEASON to be jolly but Arsene Wenger appears to be having a laugh at the expense of Arsenal fans. Despite the fact that his side lies tenth in the Premier League, 15 points behind leaders Manchester United, and on Saturday suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea, the Arsenal manager believes the club is "in fantastic shape".
Wenger was reacting to reports that his assistant, Steve Bould, tore into the squad after Saturday's shameful defeat. "That is not true at all," Wenger said. "There's nothing more irritating than superficial information nowadays."
Not to him, maybe, but for the Arsenal faithful nothing is more irritating than seeing their team lose at home to a side that a few seasons ago was languishing in League Two. That doesn't concern Wenger, however, who appears to be in denial that his squad simply isn't good enough to compete with the two Manchester clubs.
"It's unbelievable," he replied, when asked about recent criticism of Arsenal, who have made their worst start to a Premier League season since 1994. "At the moment it is fashionable to be against Arsenal, so every single word you say, people turn it against you. But it doesn't stop me saying what I believe. This club is in fantastic shape."
Those words are likely only to further infuriate fans who believe the club's board have lost sight of the real purpose of Arsenal – to win trophies not make a profit. There were protests before Saturday's match against Swansea aimed at chief executive Ivan Gazidis, and they're likely to intensify in the coming weeks if the Gunners don't start winning matches.
Arsenal fan sites are indicative of the mood among Gooners. Though there have been murmurings of discontent aimed Wenger's way in the last couple of seasons, they were very much in the minority; now, however, the momentum is with the malcontents.
Writing on the justarsenal website, Adam Kemp give both barrels to Wenger, blasting: "Wenger has to go. Sack this miserable mirage of what used to resemble the legend that was. This man is a joke and deserves to put out of his misery like an aged race horse!"
Similar sentiments are expressed on le-grove.co.uk, which gives a more reasoned explanation for why the time has come for Wenger to say au revoir.
When he took over Arsenal in 1996, the Frenchman revolutionised the club both on and off the field, and he set the standard that others followed at the start of the new millennium. But, says le-grove, "Things never stand still. Technology moves on, training regimes improve and the game evolves.
"[Alex] Ferguson delegates tasks at United, he knows he doesn't have all the answers so he trusts his experts. That's why he's survived. Arsene Wenger doesn't delegate, he's still manning the whistle at training… he's a dictator."
Certainly judging by Wenger's comments ahead of tonight's Champions League encounter against Olympiacos, he conveyed the impression of a man who believed the fault lies with the modern world and not with himself.
"I can understand that not everybody is pleased but… that's why we have to continue to behave like we do," he said. "What has changed is the world has become more emotional about everything, but that is not the real world."
What the real world is, Wenger didn't say. Anyway, few Arsenal fans believe he's in it right now.