Arsenal revolt: 'Wenger out' banner appears in stands
Arsenal end winless streak with victory over West Brom, but fans make their feelings known
Arsenal may have ended their winless streak with a 1-0 win away at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday but the three points has done little to appease the growing number of Gooners who want Arsene Wenger gone.
The victory at the Hawthorns, courtesy of Danny Welbeck's second-half header, was Arsenal's first win in five games (since their 3-0 defeat of Burnley on 1 November) and it lifts the Gunners up into sixth place in the table, 13 points behind Chelsea who were held to a goalless draw at Sunderland.
Yet despite the win there was the first evidence of open rebellion among the Arsenal fans with some holding aloft a large banner emblazoned with the message: "Arsene, thanks for the memories but it's time to say goodbye."
Asked about the insurrection in the post-match press conference, a stony-faced Wenger replied: "I don't comment on that. Do I need to say it again? I don't comment on your question."
The Frenchman did say, however, that "we live in a society of total opinion but we live off not what we say but what we do and what we do is on the pitch". The trouble is the fans – or at least some of the Arsenal faithful - now believe that what the club do on the pitch under Wenger isn't good enough.
Yes, Wenger's supporters point to the fact that last week against Borussia Dortmund the Gunners qualified for the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the 15th season in a row, but not even the most die-hard Gooner expects the club to advance beyond the Last 16 when they come up against the big boys of European football in February.
Similarly, it's all well and good edging an away win at West Brom but how many sides in the top half of the Premier League table have Arsenal beaten this season? Not one. The five matches they've won have been against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Burnley and the Baggies.
According to Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph in an interview with Sky Sports, the Arsenal hierarchy remain resolutely behind their manager, despite comments from Alisher Usmanov last week, who criticised Wenger for never learning from his mistakes. "I have never seen any sign of a crack in the board in terms of their backing for Wenger," said Wilson, who added that Arsenal have had "years of failure that Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham would absolutely love to have".
But that's missing the point. Arsenal, traditionally, have been a bigger club than both Everton and their north London rivals, while the Reds have lurched from one crisis to another in recent seasons and have openly acknowledged their two decades of under-achievement.
What riles the malcontents at the Emirates is the board's – and Wenger's – seeming indifference to ten years with just one trophy, last year's FA Cup. Usmanov articulated this frustration last week in his attack but no one else at the club seems able to accept that a decade without a league title (one has to go back to the late 1980s for such a barren spell) is not good enough for a club of Arsenal's stature. "Success means winning trophies year after year. He has won eight of them and one in a decade," the Sun's Antony Kastrinakis told Sky Sports. "Why is that banner there on the day they win a match? Why are the fans divided? I'll tell you why... they pay the most expensive tickets in Europe to be fourth in England and never go past the last 16 of the Champions League unless they play an average club... I'm not saying he should go - Wenger and Arsenal are intertwined – but the rhetoric has to change."
Arsenal host third-place Southampton on Wednesday evening, a good opportunity for Wenger to atone for recent sins by slaying the Saints. Defeat, on the other hand, will only give birth to more banners.