Arsenal fans in civil war over Arsene Wenger
Pardew defends Wenger against Arsenal fans' insults as Newcastle prepare to head to the Emirates
'Tis is the season to be jolly, but a large section of Arsenal fans could be forgiven for thinking Alan Pardew is having a laugh at their expense. In a campaign that has been marred by banners, insults and fisticuffs, Arsenal fans are in a state of civil war over manager Arsene Wenger. Half want him out, half want him to remain at the helm and see out the contract that expires in three years.
The half that are fed up with the Frenchman won't be too pleased to hear Alan Pardew's opinion of Wenger, the manager he must outwit tomorrow when Newcastle travel to the Emirates. The Magpies' manager was himself the subjects of fan scorn earlier in the season when Newcastle endured a rocky run of results. He survived intact and so is in a position to analyse the simmering discontent that has never been far from the surface at Arsenal this season.
"He's done an absolutely marvellous job," Pardew replied when asked about Wenger. "If he hadn't been as astute in the transfer market as he's been they couldn't have competed in the Champions League with that stadium debt. He's had a couple of difficult results recently, but Arsene has those as every manager does. He'll get through it."
The anger some Arsenal fans feel towards Wenger almost boiled over last Saturday evening following the Gunners' 3-2 defeat at Stoke. A small group of fans hurled abuse at the 65-year-old as he prepared to board the train back to London. Like most right-minded people, Pardew was appalled at the scenes that were captured on film, saying: "His treatment in that train station was total disrespect, and I'm sure every Arsenal fan was ashamed of that."
Pardew and Wenger are the Premier League's two longest-serving managers and though they had a touchline shoving match in 2006 when the former was in charge of West Ham, Pardew says he nothing but "respect" for the Frenchman. "He's been very good to me and loaned me Alex Song when I was [manager] at Charlton. That was a massive signing for us and almost saved us from relegation."
And Pardew expressed his incredulity that some Arsenal supporters want to see Wenger given the chop. On the contrary, he declared, he should be given the ultimate accolade after 18 years in charge of the club. "This is a guy that's done an unbelievable job," said Pardew. "In some ways the stadium should be named after him."