Wenger is back in the supporters' good books
PUBLISHED: 16:02 29 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:14 07 September 2010
Arsene Wenger appears to be well and truly back in Arsenal fans good books after an end-of-season love-in at The Emirates on Sunday. After his veiled threats the previous week, in which he publicly noted Real Madrid s interest in taking him to Santiago B
Arsene Wenger appears to be well and truly back in Arsenal fans' good books after an end-of-season love-in at The Emirates on Sunday.
After his veiled threats the previous week, in which he publicly noted Real Madrid's interest in taking him to Santiago Bernabeu, as many supporters voiced their displeasure at the club's lack of silverware, there appears to have been some serious backtracking on both sides.
Better the devil you know.
He remains mindful, however, little progress has been made in the past year. Arsenal finished this campaign with 11 fewer points than last term, scoring six fewer goals and enjoying four less victories.
His young side did, at least, progress further in the Champions League before a two-legged humiliation at the hands of a superior Manchester United.
And they remained unbeaten away from home against the other sides in the top four, beating Chelsea and drawing at Liverpool and United.
"The difficult thing for a manager is feeling that the team has stood still," confessed the manager after a comfortable 4-1 win against Stoke City. I believe we played during the whole season in a difficult position but overall it was good to finish well and have the crowd happy before we start next season.
"I feel that we had to re-find a balance after the departures of (Alexander) Hleb and (Mathieu) Flamini and the injury to (Tomas) Rosicky.
"We had a little bit of a dodgy start but in the last 23 games we only lost once against Chelsea here."
That final point is not lost on many fans who believe Arsenal are "only one or two players away from the title".
Much like 12 months ago.
The impressively proactive supporters group REDAction even held a "march of solidarity" for the Frenchman to, in its words, "show the world that not only are we grateful for what he's done for us but also that we have faith in him".
Several hundred gathered outside the Rocket on Holloway Road prior to kick off and, later, outside the Armoury to declare their gratitude and unwavering backing for the 59-year-old Wenger, who was clearly touched by the messages of support in the previous few days, describing the fans' faith in him as "warming".
The contrast with that now infamous shareholders meeting earlier in the month, when Wenger faced hostile questioning and calls for a change in his policy for the first time in his 13 years at the club, as frustration came to the fore, could not be more stark.
Arsenal legends from the past also remain committed to the Wenger project.
Ham&High Sport has spoken to several ex-players "off the record" over the past few days to gauge opinion, and the message was the same from one and all: "I'm not criticising him, I'll back the man for as long as he is here - there is nobody better to take our club on," said one former defender.
"Yes, I'd like to see a couple of new signings, but look at the injuries we have had and look at the quality of the other teams in the top four.
"I think, if anything, we are actually punching above our weight - the man is a miracle worker," another told the paper.
"If you want Wenger out you want your head examining - end off story," snapped another, after Sunday's game.
Wenger has also given his strongest hint yet that he is willing to finally dip into the Emirates coffers in a bid to strengthen a squad which remains brittle despite its obvious talents.
"I don't complain about the money I have and I am not afraid to spend the money when I find it," he said.
When asked if is frightened to spend big money, he added: "It is not true. "I cannot manipulate people's brains unfortunately. And I don't want to. We spent money on Andrey Arshavin."
Fulham's mammoth defender Brede Hangeland remains a clear target to stiffen a defence lacking strength and, importantly, aerial dominance.
The Norway international - who is 6ft 4in and has been instrumental in Fulham's prgression into next season's Europa League - scored the winner for the Cottagers in their 1-0 victory over the Gunners last August.
Ajax's Belgium international defender Thomas Vermaelen is also believed to have been monitored in recent weeks, according to various reports from Amsterdam. Both would be welcome additions.
Wenger will also sit down with Robin van Persie shortly to discuss extending his contract, although the Netherlands attacker still has two years remaining on his current deal, a situation the manager is comfortable with.
Wenger also remains confident his strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor will stay at Emirates, despite serious misgivings by fans tired of the Togo international courting a move abroad.
Both players feature on season ticket renewal forms sent out by the club in the past week, accompanied by the slogan, "Now Is Our Time".
Wenger will hope that will, finally, be the case another 12 months down the line.
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