London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger has called on Arsenal fans to turn out in force for Tuesday’s game against Sunderland rather than take part in a boycott designed to hasten his removal as manager of the London giants.
The veteran French boss has still to announce if he will be staying at the Emirates Stadium when his current contract expires after the end of the season.
The Gunners have just three games left before their campaign concludes — two in the Premier League against Sunderland and Everton before an FA Cup final newly-crowned champions and London rivals Chelsea.
In marked contrast to the Blues, Arsenal have not won the English title since 2004 and Wenger has come under renewed pressure this season with his side in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal have finished in the top four of every full season since Wenger took charge 21 years ago but, after Liverpool’s 4-0 win at West Ham on Sunday, they now need slip-ups from either the Merseysiders or Manchester City to help them maintain that proud record.
This season has already seen a number of ‘Wenger out’ protests by supporters groups, including planes flying over grounds carrying messages urging the 67-year-old to quit and marches before games, with some empty seats visible at recent Emirates fixtures.
Now there are calls for mass boycott of Tuesday’s match at home to Sunderland.
But Wenger, who yet again refused to comment on his Arsenal future, said Monday: “My message is always the same, it is to support the team.
A statement on onlinegooner.com suggested that Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone or Juventus’s Max Allegri would now be better at managing Arsenal than Wenger.
The statement then asked fans not to turn up at the game against the Black Cats.
– ‘Past-it manager’ –
“We are calling on fans that feel the same way to boycott tomorrow evening’s match against Sunderland,” the statement said.
“Please consider joining us in this boycott. Don’t sell your seat to a tourist or give it to a mate. Let yours be one of the many gaps in the stands that send a direct and unarguable message to the directors. You do not want to watch any more of the same old same old.
“If you are in any doubt, look at our season and compare that to Chelsea, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. We are a bigger club than all three of them but we are being held back by a greedy owner and a past it manager.
“By doing this, we can send a message to Stan Kroenke (Arsenal’s US-based owner) and Arsene Wenger that Arsenal should be doing so much better.”
Arsenal have won six of their last seven games with their only defeat coming against north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who on Sunday beat Manchester United in the last match at White Hart Lane to ensure they would finish runners-up behind Chelsea.
Arsenal, second to shock champions Leicester last season, could win more points this term but fail to qualify for the Champions League.
“Our chances depend on winning our games. We have 69 points, we can get to 75,” said Wenger. “That will be four points more than last year, so let’s focus on finishing as well as we can.”
Arsenal won 4-1 away to Stoke City on Saturday but they are now waiting on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Alexis Sanchez (thigh) ahead of the match against bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.
“Sanchez will have a test today (Monday),” said Wenger. “Yesterday it didn’t look too good, but with him you never know. He’s so keen. Maybe it was just a kick. It could be a possibility that he recovers for tomorrow.”
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