Why single out Arsenal, it's tough for all: Wenger

Empty seats are visible at the Emirates Stadium as the players come on to the pitch during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion on Thursday. There is a growing disenchantment among Arsenal supporters about the team's disa
Empty seats are visible at the Emirates Stadium as the players come on to the pitch during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion on Thursday. There is a growing disenchantment among Arsenal supporters about the team's disappearing title challenge.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger complained that criticism of his team was misplaced following their 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion and said that stay-away supporters were not necessarily protesting.

Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal returned to winning ways on Thursday following successive draws, climbing above Manchester City and into third place on 63 points in the Premier League.

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all out of the picture, this season represented a golden opportunity for Arsenal to end their 12-year title wait. But Wenger feels that it is unfair to single his side out for criticism.

"It is difficult for everybody," said the Frenchman. "Look at the table. There are top, top teams who are behind us. Because Leicester are in front, everyone thinks we should have done it."

Despite Arsenal's win, there was no disguising the lack of any sense of occasion, with thousands of empty seats visible during the game.

Asked if he had a message for the fans who had stayed away, Wenger told his post-match press conference: "Come and support the team. If you love football, I think you'll see quality football. That's what we try to give to our people."

Arsenal's bid to nail down a top-four place has been aided by the timely return to form of Sanchez, who has scored five times in his last four appearances.

The Chile striker opened the scoring in the sixth minute, before adding another via a neat free kick seven minutes before half-time.

"He had a top-quality first half and in the second half he dropped a little bit physically, but overall his contribution was vital," Wenger said of Sanchez.

"For us every point is important. We play under permanent pressure for every single game, so it is important to have the lead early and to focus on the way we want to play."

West Brom manager Tony Pulis, whose side remain 10 points clear of the relegation zone, said he had "no complaints" about the result.

"We've missed chances," he said. "In the last game we missed two blinking penalties. So we've had the opportunities, we just haven't put them in the back of the net."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'Why single out Arsenal, it's tough for all: Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe