Arsenal’s long-serving manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged the grievances of fans who protested against him during the north London club’s 1-0 Premier League win over Norwich City on Saturday.
In a pre-planned protest, a smattering of fans held up A4 posters bearing the words “TIME FOR CHANGE” in the 12th and 78th minutes of the game at the Emirates Stadium, in a nod to Arsenal’s 12-year league title drought.
But in response thousands of supporters chanted “There’s only one Arsene Wenger!”, with some holding aloft placards in support of the under-fire Frenchman.
“We respect the opinion of everybody and we give absolutely the best,” Wenger told Sky Sports after the game, in which substitute Danny Welbeck scored a 59th-minute winner.
“I think I have shown my commitment and care for this club, and for the fans. I’m really sorry if I cannot make them all happy, of course. We’ll continue to work hard to achieve it.”
There were also reports of pro-Wenger and anti-Wenger factions being separated by stadium stewards.
With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all toiling and Manchester City inconsistent, this season was seen as a prime opportunity for Arsenal to end their wait for the Premier League title.
But instead they have been left behind by champions-elect Leicester City and now find themselves in a familiar battle to secure a top-four finish and a Champions League place.
Speaking before Saturday’s game, Wenger said: “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 them.
“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.”
Wenger, 66, became Arsenal manager in 1996 and led the club to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his first nine years at the helm.
But they have only back-to-back FA Cup wins in 2014 and 2015 to show for their efforts since then and have gone out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the past six seasons running.
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