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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wenger comes out fighting

For 15 minutes or so on Tuesday evening Arsenal fans were beginning to wonder whether their already poor start to the season was about to become traumatic.

The wounds from that 8-2 mauling at Manchester United and 4-2 loss at Blackburn were yet to heal when League Two Shrewsbury took the lead the Emirates Stadium in the Carling Cup third round.

Thankfully for the nervous red and white hordes the night took a turn for the better thanks to goals from Keiran Gibbs, Alex Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun.

However, it wasn’t exactly the morale boosting performance Wenger had hoped for following the Ewood Park disaster at the weekend.

Earlier in the day Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis had dismissed suggestions the club would consider sacking the Frenchman after 14 years in charge at the London club.

Fuelled by that vote of confidence, Wenger was in equally bullish mood immediately after the game, stating his intention to stick around for a while yet.

“I can understand that people are unhappy and criticise, but you know as well as I know that people are very quick to go overboard,” said Wenger.

"When we do well we take all the plaudits, so we have to take all the blame when it doesn't go as well - but we have, on both sides, to take some distance.

"I am not bothered at all by this speculation.

"I have had 14 years at this club and kept them 14 years in the Champions League. I hope it lasts another 14.”

That determination to fight on will be a boost to Arsenal supporters, who thought they saw a beaten man on the touchline at Ewood park on Saturday. Despite the tough recent run Wenger is still a coach of the highest order and although his hesitancy in the transfer market has perhaps proved costly, there is no better manager out there at present who can get Arsenal out of their current predicament.

The title is out of their reach, no question. If you are going to bet on the Premier League it is only worth looking at three clubs - United, City and Chelsea – given the mega-money at their disposal.

Champions League qualification – and the riches that brings – is vitally important given the club are still repaying the cost of their new ground. But with Spurs and Liverpool also fighting hard, the Gunners’ poor start may already prove critical.

However, it is an end to the club’s now six-year trophy drought that is an attainable target and one Wenger needs to achieve if he is to relieve the pressure on his shoulders. Something to consider if you want a bet on the FA Cup.

As much as the cash-cow of the Champions League is important, the sight of an Arsenal captain lifting a trophy – a first at the new stadium – would do much to dissipate the clouds of discontent circling above north London at present.

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