LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger yesterday labelled criticism of his team's faltering Premier League title challenge "excessive" and "too emotional".
Sunday's 3-2 defeat by injury-ravaged Manchester United left Arsenal five points below league leaders Leicester City, compromising the London club's chances of ending their 12-year wait for the title.
Media pundits rounded on Arsenal afterwards, with former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness branding them "weak and insipid" and former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson saying Wenger should leave if they do not win the league.
"I'm never surprised by the criticism that comes," Wenger told a press conference ahead of his side's home game with Swansea City today. "That's part of the media today. Part of the opinion is always a bit excessive and emotional, but we have to deal with that and I don't complain about it.
Let's not go overboard. We do not play to be relegated. We are playing to fight for the title. That's why we have to put criticism in the right place.
ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, on the barrage of criticism against his team after their 3-2 defeat by Manchester United.
"I don't want to respond to individual criticism. People are a bit too emotional and we want to put things into perspective by analysing things a bit more in a neutral way."
Arsenal face second-placed Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend and Wenger wants his side to use Swansea's visit as a springboard for what could prove a pivotal game in the title race.
"That's what we want to do," said the Frenchman. "We want to transform the negatives into positives around us and create even more solidarity. Let's not go overboard. We do not play to be relegated. We are playing to fight for the title. That's why we have to put criticism in the right place."
Goalkeeper Petr Cech admitted that Arsenal, in third, must record back-to-back victories this week to relaunch their title challenge.
"This (the defeat at United) was a big disappointment for us and is a step back after last week, where we managed to overcome a deficit against Leicester at home," said Cech, a veteran of four Premier League title successes with Chelsea.
"But we need to keep working. We have two important games coming up this week and if we manage to win both, the table might look better again."
With the North London derby scheduled for an early kick-off just three days after the Swansea clash, Wenger may be tempted to make changes in a bid to freshen up his side.
Striker Olivier Giroud is likely to return up front in place of Theo Walcott against Swansea. Another change could involve Danny Welbeck, who has just returned from a long-term knee injury.
Gunners midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains out of contention, with Wenger revealing that the England international could be sidelined for as long as two months by a knee injury suffered in the recent Champions League loss to Barcelona.
"No surgery," he added. "We feared surgery at some stage before we saw the MRI (scan). In the end we got, on that front, positive news.
"The next eight weeks means March and April. He should be OK for the European Championship."
ARSENAL V SWANSEA
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