Wenger rallies Gunners support

The Gunners head to Bolton on Sunday having found themselves pushed

back into third place by improving Chelsea in midweek as once again

they failed to pick up maximum points after a pulsating

north-London derby at Tottenham ended 3-3. While Wenger’s men are

unbeaten in 16 league games, they have won just three in the last

nine, with draws proving so costly as the destiny of the

championship slipped once again from their grasp. The Gunners boss

has been forced to defend his young squad from the now seasonal

barrage of questions about their mental strength in the moments

which matter. There are also growing rumbles of discontent among

fans, with the Arsenal Supporters Trust going as far as releasing a

statement over their “considerable disappointment” after seeing

hopes of Carling Cup glory dashed in a shock defeat by Birmingham

at Wembley, which was swiftly followed by exits from both the

Champions League to Barcelona and FA Cup at Manchester United.

Wenger, though, insists his team have already performed way beyond

expectations and is in no doubt with everyone pulling in the right

direction, the campaign can yet be salvaged. “The Arsenal

supporters can be very proud of their team and the experience I

have is that they have turned up with a fantastic mentality since

the start of the season,” Wenger said. “We created a huge hope

because we were fighting on all fronts, and the first quality a

club wants to have is a fighting spirit. “We did fight beyond the

expectation of everybody. If I listen to the expectation at the

start of the season, nobody expected us to be where we are.

Sometimes I would like you [the media] to acknowledge that. “What I

would like from our fans is to be behind the team until the last

day, the last minute, of the season. “This club has massive values,

has been built on solidarity and it is important we show this kind

of solidarity until the last second of the season. “Then I will

accept what people think, but until the last second of the season I

believe it is very important that everybody who loves this club

fights together.” Not so long ago, a trip to Bolton would have been

a completely different proposition for the Gunners, so often coming

unstuck against the strong tactics of Sam Allardyce. However, Owen

Coyle has transformed the playing style of the Trotters, who look

set for a top-10 finish but last week suffered a 5-0 FA Cup

semi-final thrashing by Stoke at Wembley. Wenger has been

impressed. “Bolton has done very well, but they have just got a

massive disappointment. Overall they have been one of the teams

above expectations,” he said. “They have been expecting to go to

the cup final and the disappointment must be huge for them. “How

they will respond? I don’t know, but we have to focus on our own

performance in a game of that stature.”