21st March 2016: Wenger vents + Bellerin on having a breather

Evening all. With Easter on the horizon we’re at the start of a short working week for most, but due to the international break, we’re also just beginning what will soon feel like an eternity before club football returns.

And as we head into the latest Arsenal-less abyss, Arsene Wenger has left us with some introspection to keep us occupied by revealing his ‘hurt’ at recent civil unrest within the club’s fanbase. He said:

What hurts me is that at the important moment of the season we played in a sceptical environment. I think after the Tottenham game where we played a very good game with 10 men against 11 and came back to 2-2, I couldn’t understand why – at the moment when you need everyone behind the team – we had to hit that storm. From the media, OK. From our fans? It is a bit more difficult to take.

Whilst I definitely agree with Arsene’s sentiments as far as getting behind the team is concerned, I think it’s fair to say most fans recognized our performance against Tottenham was very good and but for a brainless moment of madness from Francis Coquelin, we’d probably have gone on to win that game.

The ‘sceptical environment’ wasn’t whipped up a by a hard-fought draw at Sp*rs, it was created by a succession of poor results that have seen us fall from pole position in the league not too long ago, to virtually out of contention for the title.

Throw in elimination from the Champions League and FA Cup (admittedly after the Tottenham game), and clearly fans have a right to vent frustration. And that’s before you factor in the depressing familiarity of Arsenal’s seasonal arc, or the industry-high price of a ticket to see the Gunners play.

But having aired his views on the lack of support from the stands for his side, Arsene then balanced things out (or back-tracked, if you prefer), saying:

I never complain about critics, especially when they are turned against me. But we have to get the fans behind us with our attitude, and make sure that they stand behind the team until the end of the season.

It’s the last six words that need properly processing for me. We go with what we have, players and manager-wise, until the last game of the season and then is the time to take stock and draw conclusions. See where we end up, how the end of the campaign pans out. We might win it, or we could finish sixth. Right now though, who the f*ck knows?

There isn’t a doubt in my mind a vociferous support can play a part in helping the team perform better and pick up points and with five of our last eight games at home, where we’ve struggled recently, the fans can come to the fore in a positive fashion. It’s up to us and the least we could, and should, do. That’s my view anyway.

Moving on, Hector Bellerin reckons we’re “definitely” still in the title race and that the international break has arrived at the perfect time as it gives the squad a chance to recharge, regroup and ready themselves for the final straight of the season. Speaking after our win over Everton, he said:

It is great time to go on the international break after a win, and it’s time for the players to recharge their batteries because it is the last bit of the season and it is important for us. We knew it was going to be a hard game. We were really looking forward to it and the team put on a great performance, especially in the first half with two great goals. That gave us the chance to relax a little bit in the second half. It is always a hard place to come and in the last few years we have always had tough games [here]. To get a win like that was important. I think the team has had more purpose with the ball lately and we are playing better football. That is showing on the pitch because we have to defend less because we are keeping the ball and creating way more chances.

Hopefully we can pick up where we left off in fortnight or so – playing fluently, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets.

But to do that, we’ll no doubt need all our players to return from international duty unscathed, so as always, all we can do right now is hope for the best.

See you tomorrow.

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