Wenger unfazed by criticism

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal's recent run of form has been "very, very difficult to take", but he delivered a withering response to talk of a crisis, suggesting that the scrutiny on him and his players is "becoming a farce".

The Frenchman was again subjected to angry barbs from supporters as Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

Even Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes said: "When you see Arsenal playing against big teams, they look like a small team. They don't look like winning a title soon."

It was the Gunners' third straight home loss, leaving them with one win in their past seven matches in all competitions.

They have fallen off the pace behind Leicester and Tottenham in the Premier League, with a daunting task in Spain tomorrow as they go into the last-16, second leg of their Champions League tie 0-2 down to Barcelona. But Wenger disagreed with the assessment that he is "in the midst of a really big challenge".

"The next game is always a big challenge and you are always in the middle of a drama," he said. "It is becoming a farce. Arsenal have lost games before in history and we will lose again in the future. But we will stick together and prepare for the next one with complete belief.

"What is going on at the moment is very, very difficult to take for the players. We have come to the end of a long run in the FA Cup, so it is sad, but we want to focus on the next game."

When asked whether he was concerned that the FA Cup defeat could affect the team adversely as they go into another crucial week, he said: "No. This team have a great spirit, a very strong attitude. We have an opportunity to show on Wednesday night we are up to it."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger unfazed by criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe