Wenger ignores sack calls amid late push

Stoke City striker Peter Crouch (second from right) scoring their lone goal in a 4-1 defeat by Arsenal. Controversy surrounded the goal as Arsenal claimed that Crouch had scored with his hand.
Stoke City striker Peter Crouch (second from right) scoring their lone goal in a 4-1 defeat by Arsenal. Controversy surrounded the goal as Arsenal claimed that Crouch had scored with his hand.PHOTO: REUTERS

Frenchman urges Gunners to press on as Stoke win puts them right behind Man City

LONDON • Arsene Wenger dismissed protests from Arsenal fans seeking his removal as manager, and called on his players to focus instead on the club's push for Champions League football next season.

An emphatic 4-1 win at Stoke City on Saturday kept the Gunners in contention for a top-four finish and a 21st consecutive season of elite European football.

But, while Wenger's name was sung out heartily by supporters inside Stoke's stadium early in the game, a plane flew overhead carrying a banner calling for the Frenchman not to return next season.

"When you say fans, who do you mean? The rich ones?" said Wenger when asked for his reaction. "Look, I am paid to do my job for the club I love and I will do that as long as I'm here with full commitment. I'm not influenced by that at all, all I do is give my best.

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"We have 69 points today, so let's make 72 (against Sunderland) on Tuesday.

"After that, I will give my best for as long as I'm here for the values of this club and for the club."

  • 20

  • Consecutive seasons of European Champions League football Arsenal have played in.

Earlier in the day, reports in France had suggested that Wenger has already agreed a one-year deal to remain in charge at the Emirates, but the 67-year-old refused to confirm or deny the claim.

"There's no information about that," said Wenger. "Nothing."

Arsenal's fifth win in six games leaves them three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.

They have two matches left - against Sunderland tomorrow and then Everton on Sunday.

Said Wenger: "At the moment, we have consistency and let's finish well."

Saturday's victory featured two goals from Olivier Giroud and efforts from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, although Arsenal faced an anxious period in the second half after Peter Crouch pulled the score back to 2-1 with a goal that owed much to an obvious hand- ball from the Stoke substitute.

Wenger even referred to his team having kept a "clean sheet", so convinced was he that the Stoke goal should not have stood.

"What do you think?" asked the manager with a smile when asked if that was why he referred to a "clean sheet".

"I got to the fourth official after it had been confirmed. I was surprised he got to the ball when I saw his position, then people told me it was hand-ball."

The decisive third Sanchez goal was all the more important, given that the Chilean appeared about to be replaced due to injury.

"I didn't plan to take him off, he asked to come off," explained Wenger. "I thought he had done a stomach muscle so it might go away and I could see how he responds.

"After that he stayed on and scored another goal. Sanchez is a fighter and finds resources always. He delivered the third goal and that basically made the difference."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who had not lost in eight home league games against Wenger with five different clubs, conceded his team were completely outplayed.

"We gave good players too much time to get their heads up and make incisive passes and their two opening goals were similar in that respect," said Hughes, whose team occupy 13th place with 41 points.

AGENCY FRANCE-PRECISE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger ignores sack calls amid late push'. Print Edition | Subscribe