Arsene Wenger: 'Difficult' home climate to blame for Arsenal's Premier League failure
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has blamed a 'difficult climate' in home fixtures for the failure to win the Premier League.
Arsenal's title challenge fell apart after a string of poor home results and performances against sides from the bottom half of the table.
Following a disappointing 3-2 defeat to a depleted Manchester Untied side, Arsenal lost 2-1 to Swansea at the Emirates on March 2. A 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace, again at home, and last weekend's 0-0 draw with Sunderland ended their title challenge.
" We lost the championship at home against the lower teams, but we played at home in a very difficult climate."
"We have to realise that, away from home, we are championship winners. At home, against the smaller teams, we lost the league.
“This club does have special values though and one I've experienced over the years is to stick together and support the team. There's no success without that.”
Three supporter groups - Red Action, the Black Scarf Movement and the Arsenal Supporters' Trust - have united to ask fans to protest against the Arsenal leadership in Saturday's match against Norwich.
Placards like the one below will be held by fans at 12 and 78 minutes - symbolising the fact it is 12 years since Arsenal last won the title.
'Personal agendas and big egos'
Piers Morgan (Reuters)Eurosport
Wenger also said there was a campaign led by unnamed agitators to turn the fans against the team. He pointedly mentioned big egos, leading many to speculate that the target of his anger was Arsenal celebrity fan Piers Morgan, who has repeatedly called for the manager to go.
" We are a very big club. Look, I can understand the frustration of our fans. But, despite that, they want to support our team. The best chance they can give our team is to be behind our team. Some groups of people try to manipulate our fans, and I believe apart from an agenda, a personal agenda, a big ego, there's not a lot behind it."
'This team has character'
Empty seats as Arsenal fans display banners in protest against manager Arsene WengerReuters
In another dig at mystery parties, Wenger also said some of Arsenal's critics did not have the character of his players. He appeared to be targeting former players who have questioned Arsenal in the media.
" This team has character and attitude. Some people question them. I know them well, and they have less character than this team have. I saw them play and I know them very closely, and they shouldn't question this team's character. Attitude-wise, we've been impeccable from the first to the last day. But when a club cannot enjoy anything anymore, it's in trouble. In football you go down very quickly and come up very slowly. We have to stick together."
Kroenke is 'very ambitious'
Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke (left) with Chairman Chips KeswickPA Photos
One of the key criticisms of supporters has been that owner Stan Kroenke appears too content with finishing in the top four every season without mounting a successful title bid. Invited to address concerns that the American is not ambitious, Wenger defended his boss.
" We can work in complete freedom. Every club should work with the resources it generates. He's never stopped me in the market. He's very ambitious. We are all very ambitious."
Is Wenger right? Has the Arsenal atmosphere contributed to their failure? Deputy managing editor Tom Adams has been a regular at Emirates Stadium this season: "The atmosphere at Arsenal is generally pretty poor and even verges into nasty territory on occasions. But let's be serious: this is not 90,000 people whistling and getting their hankies out at the Bernabeu. For Wenger to point the finger at fans is, frankly ridiculous, and completely counter-productive ahead of a weekend when protests are planned at the ground. If he intended to force fans to think twice about expressing their discontent, it is likely to backfire.
"Wenger's insistence that Arsenal are the best team away from home does not add up: they have seven fewer away points than Leicester. Rather than trying to pin blame on home fans Wenger would be better served scrutinising the real reasons for his side's inability to mount a title challenge. Today's press conference will only serve to accentuate divisions between the club and its supporters."